Engaging Newly Enrolled Physicians with Introductory Incentives: The Role of Online and Offline References
Posted: 14 Aug 2017 Last revised: 6 Jun 2022
Date Written: August 10, 2018
This paper examines the impact of introductory incentives on newly enrolled physicians’ contributions in an online health community. While providing short-term incentives has become a common practice aimed at motivating newcomers, the long-term effects of such incentives are unclear. Also unclear is the nature and extent of the influence of online and offline income on newcomers’ responses to ongoing incentives. Drawing on a policy change in a leading online health community, we compared newly enrolled physicians who were affected by the policy to others who were not. Our evidence revealed that despite the increased contribution quantity resulting from the introductory incentives during the policy window, such incentives had the potential to significantly decrease contributions in the long run. Moreover, the effects of introductory incentives were contingent on physicians’ online income rather than offline income, suggesting that they evaluated online incentives in a separate mental account, creating opportunities for the platforms to better motivate new users with online incentives. Various robustness checks using different methods, controls, and platforms confirmed the consistency of our results. This research contributes to the literature by investigating the impacts of introductory incentives on newcomers in online health communities and sheds light on the unique mechanism involved in aligning online incentives with prior income. Lastly, the findings also provide managerial insights into the design of monetary incentives in online communities.
Keywords: Online health communities, introductory incentives, monetary incentives, mental accounting, prospect theory
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