34 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2014
Date Written: December 14, 2014
Content and identity are inextricably linked in social media. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Reddit, Netflix and Amazon all provide identity cues that affect users’ link formation decisions and choices about who to follow for the best content, the automated friend suggestion algorithms developed by the platforms themselves, as well as new “social advertising” programs that use identity cues to improve ad effectiveness. The universality of identity cues online raises an interesting question: To what extent are opinions about products and content influenced by features of the content itself or the identity of the user associated with the content? We conducted a large scale field experiment with a novel anonymization manipulation that randomly assigned social content produced on a social news aggregation website to “named” and “anonymous” conditions to identify the causal effect of identity cues on opinion. Our results show that identity effects exist and vary with a content producer’s reputation, activity level and reciprocity with the viewer. These methods and results can help platform providers correct for known biases to maintain consumer confidence in the reviews, ratings and crowdsourced opinions they provide; as well as enabling marketers to optimally target social advertising.
Keywords: Social Networks, Field Experiments, Heterogeneity, Social Media
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Taylor, Sean J. and Muchnik, Lev and Aral, Sinan, Identity and Opinion: A Randomized Experiment (December 14, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2538130 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2538130