Priming Donor Identity in Digital Profiles of Online Networking Sites: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment

33 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2016 Last revised: 3 Jun 2020

See all articles by Xue Tan

Xue Tan

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business

Yingda Lu

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Junjie Wu

Beihang University (BUAA)

Date Written: Feburary 8, 2020

Abstract

In the last decade, we have observed increased efforts by online networking sites to transform rich network resources into prosocial activities such as charitable giving. A key feature that distinguishes online social networks from the offline human networks is the digital profile that can automatically report users’ behavior inside or even outside an online network. Our study examines the impact of a profile design change in a microblogging platform to disclose users’ charitable donation volumes in an affiliated fundraising platform through a widget. This widget primes donor identity and may alter users’ subsequent decisions of whether to donate and where to donate according to the donation choices of their social connections. We find that users, on average, become less likely to donate after the widget is introduced. A heterogeneity analysis is conducted to account for users’ different motives for online charitable giving and reveals that such a negative response is only observed from users who do not have the highest posting frequency or the highest number of followers but have made the most charitable donations. More theoretically intriguing, we find that after the introduction of the widget, users become more likely to defy the donation choices of their one-way connections (i.e., users whose content is subscribed by the focal user) but not the donation choices of their two-way connections (i.e., users who subscribe to the focal user and are subscribed by the focal user). We discuss relevant theories to derive a comprehensive understanding of the nascent perspective that profile design can potentially alter users’ susceptibility to social influence in an online social network.

Keywords: reciprocity, susceptibility to social influence, social network, interrupted time series design

JEL Classification: H41

Suggested Citation

Tan, Xue and Lu, Yingda and Tan, Yong and Wu, Junjie, Priming Donor Identity in Digital Profiles of Online Networking Sites: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment (Feburary 8, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2820219 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2820219

Xue Tan (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business ( email )

1309 East Tenth Street
Indianapolis, IN 47405-1701
United States

Yingda Lu

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) ( email )

Troy, NY 12180
United States

Yong Tan

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

Box 353226
Seattle, WA 98195-3226
United States

Junjie Wu

Beihang University (BUAA) ( email )

37 Xue Yuan Road
Beijing 100083
China

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