Do Online Friends Bring Out the Best in Us? The Effect of Friend Contributions on Online Review Provision
Information Systems Research, Forthcoming
39 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 21, 2020
User-generated online reviews are crucial for consumer decision-making, but suffer from under- provision, quality degradation, and imbalances across products. This research investigates whether “friend contributions cues,” in the form of highlighted reviews written by online friends, can motivate users to write more and higher-quality reviews. Noting the public-good nature of online reviews, we draw upon theories of pure altruism and competitive altruism to understand the effects of friend-contribution cues on review provision. We test our hypotheses using data from Yelp, and find positive effects of friend contribution cues. Users are three times more likely to provide a review after a recent friend review than after a recent stranger review, and this effect cannot be solely explained by homophily. Furthermore, reviews written after a friend’s review tend to be of higher quality, longer, and more novel. In addition, friend reviews tend to have a stronger effect on less-experienced users and less-reviewed products/services, suggesting friend- contribution cues can help mitigate the scarcity of contributions on “long-tail” products and from infrequent contributors. Our findings hold important implications for research and practice in the private provision of online reviews.
Keywords: Online reviews, online friends, public goods, competitive altruism, contribution quality
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation