Opinion Seeking in a Social Network-Enabled Product Review Website: A Study of Word-of-Mouth in the Era of Digital Social Networks
Forthcoming, European Journal of Information Systems
49 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2017 Last revised: 19 May 2018
Date Written: January 30, 2017
This paper challenges a long-held assumption of prior research that online word of mouth (eWOM) is anonymous and impersonal by examining online shoppers’ opinion seeking in the context of using a product review website affording access to a digital social network (SN). Motivated by the need to account for the heterogeneous and idiosyncratic resources available in shoppers’ SN, we distinguish between two opinion-seeking behaviors: (i) exploiting opinions from peers in one’s core network — online friends, and (ii) exploring opinions from peers in one’s extended network — strangers. We draw on social network theory to specify what drives these behaviors and how they influence shoppers’ utilitarian and hedonic experiences during an online product selection task. The results of a free-simulation study conducted with a restaurant review website connected to the Facebook SN platform yielded three key findings. First, exploitation has a stronger beneficial effect on shoppers’ utilitarian and hedonic experiences than exploration. Second, shoppers with high social capital (both structural and relational) have a stronger propensity to engage in exploitation. Third, high social capital does not induce a substitution of exploration with exploitation. Overall, this study enhances our understanding of online shoppers’ opinion seeking in the increasingly prevalent SN-enabled settings.
Keywords: online word-of-mouth, social network, online friends, opinion seeking, structural capital, network size, network sparseness, relational capital
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