Online Communities and Social Network Structure

44 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2019

See all articles by Yanhao 'Max' Wei

Yanhao 'Max' Wei

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Wensi Zhang

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Sha Yang

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Xi Chen

Zhejiang University - School of Management

Date Written: July 16, 2019

Abstract

This paper aims to understand the effects of online communities on the network structure and their marketing implications. To account for the fact that communities are not formed exogenously, we model and estimate how they co-evolve with the friendship network. We control for unobserved heterogeneity and homophily by modeling individuals’ latent positions and similarities. Using data from a worldwide Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) Game, we find that individuals’ friendship formation decision and community membership decision reinforce each other. Moreover, model simulation reveals that, under some circumstances, online communities may promote not only within-community ties but also cross-community ties. Here, one important moderating factor is the community stickiness, which is captured by the positive effects of an individual’s number of friends in a community on her probability of staying in that community (instead of switching to a different community). As shown by our simulated diffusion exercises, only a moderately sticky community system promotes cross-community ties and consequently improves information reach. This insight helps social platforms manage online communities more effectively to improve the marketing value of social networks.

Keywords: Online Community, Network Structure, Diffusion, Online Gaming, Bayesian Inference

Suggested Citation

Wei, Yanhao and Zhang, Wensi and Yang, Sha and Chen, Xi, Online Communities and Social Network Structure (July 16, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3420525 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3420525

Yanhao Wei (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Wensi Zhang

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Sha Yang

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Xi Chen

Zhejiang University - School of Management ( email )

Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province 310058
China

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
33
Abstract Views
277
PlumX Metrics