Intrinsic vs. Image-Related Utility in Social Media: Why Do People Contribute Content to Twitter?

Posted: 13 Nov 2013

See all articles by Olivier Toubia

Olivier Toubia

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Andrew T. Stephen

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Abstract

We empirically study the motivations of users to contribute content to social media in the context of the popular microblogging site Twitter. We focus on noncommercial users who do not benefit financially from their contributions. Previous literature suggests that there are two main types of utility that motivate these users to post content: intrinsic utility and image-related utility. We leverage the fact that these two types of utility give rise to different predictions as to whether users should increase their contributions when their number of followers increases. To address the issue that the number of followers is endogenous, we conducted a field experiment in which we exogenously added followers (or follow requests, in the case of protected accounts) to a set of users over a period of time and compared their posting activities to those of a control group. We estimated each treated user's utility function using a dynamic discrete choice model. Although our results are consistent with both types of utility being at play, our model suggests that image-related utility is larger for most users. We discuss the implications of our findings for the evolution of Twitter and the type of value firms may derive from such platforms in the future.

Keywords: social media, field experiments, dynamic discrete choice models

Suggested Citation

Toubia, Olivier and Stephen, Andrew T., Intrinsic vs. Image-Related Utility in Social Media: Why Do People Contribute Content to Twitter?. Marketing Science, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2013; pp. 368-392; DOI: 10.1287/mksc.2013.0773; Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 13-78. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2329029

Olivier Toubia (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Andrew T. Stephen

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

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