Money Talks … to Online Opinion Leaders: What Motivates Opinion Leaders to Make Social-Network Referrals?

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Money Talks … to Online Opinion Leaders
What Motivates Opinion Leaders To Make Social-Network Referrals?
MENGZE SHI Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto mshi@rotman.utoronto.ca ANDREA C. WOJNICKI Independent marketing consultant Andrea.Wojnicki@ gmail.com

This study investigated the effectiveness of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations for consumers’ online social-network referrals, specifically across “opinion leaders” and “non–opinion leaders.” The authors utilized a unique dataset that matched a survey with an online field experiment. The empirical results indicated “money talks”—that is, online referral rates were higher when extrinsic rewards were conferred. Notably, the effect of an extrinsic reward was significantly stronger among opinion leaders. In this paper, the authors highlight the significance of reputational concerns and referral motivations in this context. Opinion leaders may have developed a reputation of intrinsically motivated referrals across their social networks, shielding them from potential loss of social capital associated with extrinsic rewards.
INTRODUCTION Given the commercially and academically documented impact of social networks in the marketplace, many marketers seek to harness the power of consumer referrals or word of mouth (WOM), whether it be online through social media (Kaiser, Kröckel, and Bodendorf, 2013) or offline. In the quest to inspire consumers to talk, some marketers offer rewards (i.e., discounts or gift certificates) for social-network referrals—the implicit rationale being that consumers need some tangible incentive
Bloomberg Business Week, “I Sold It through the Grapevine,” May 29, 2006. The Wall Street Journal, “If You Get Paid to Tweet, Disclose It, U.K. Says,” Paul Sonne, January 10, 2011.
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to generate WOM. Meanwhile, the media and consumer watchdogs tend to discourage the contamination…...

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