Do online friends bring out the best in us? The effect of friend contributions on online review provision

Zhihong Ke, De Liu, Daniel J. Brass

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

User-generated online reviews are crucial for consumer decision making but suffer from underprovision, 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 on 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1322-1336
Number of pages15
JournalInformation Systems Research
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Competitive altruism
  • Contribution quality
  • Online friends
  • Online reviews
  • Public goods

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