Influentials, Imitables or Susceptibles? Virality and Word-of-Mouth Conversations in Online Social Networks

Forthcoming, Journal of Management Information Systems

40 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2012 Last revised: 22 Mar 2016

Anjana Susarla

Michigan State University - The Eli Broad College of Business and The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management

Jeongha Oh

University of Texas at Dallas

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Date Written: March 21, 2016

Abstract

Motivated by the rise of social media platforms that achieve a fusion of content and community, we consider the role of word-of-mouth communications (WOM) structured through a network. Using a dataset from YouTube, we examine how cascades of WOM interactions enhance the popularity of videos. We first estimate the impact of channel influence and other network parameters in initiating WOM communications. The probit estimation considers the selection effect in videos that are likely to be associated with a greater propensity to trigger WOM. We find that factors related to a channel’s ability to be a connector and a translator is most likely to result in the incidence of WOM. We then examine how cascades of WOM conversations have persistent impacts on subsequent video popularity. Empirically, the main issue here is heterogeneity in the epidemic potential of a video. Since the threshold might vary across videos, we use a finite mixture model. We also conduct a simultaneous estimation using latent instrumental variables to address endogeneity from unobservables. Our research provides implications for researchers and practitioners by highlighting how WOM travels through networks of influence and susceptibility in disseminating awareness, and holds out insights to the design of social recommendation systems and in identifying trending topics in social media.

Keywords: Social Media, Social Networks, Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Peer Effects, Propensity Score Matching, User Generated Content

JEL Classification: C14, D83, M31, M37, Z10

Suggested Citation

Susarla, Anjana and Oh, Jeongha and Tan, Yong, Influentials, Imitables or Susceptibles? Virality and Word-of-Mouth Conversations in Online Social Networks (March 21, 2016). Forthcoming, Journal of Management Information Systems. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1984690 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1984690

Anjana Susarla (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - The Eli Broad College of Business and The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824-1121
United States

Jeongha Oh

University of Texas at Dallas ( email )

2601 North Floyd Road
Richardson, TX 75083
United States

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353226
Seattle, WA 98195-3226
United States

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