The Effects of Asymmetric Social Ties, Structural Embeddedness and Tie Strength on Online Content Contribution Behavior

Published: 26 March 2018

Authors: Rishika Rishika and Jui Ramaprasad

Publication: Management Science, Forthcoming


For a social media community to thrive and grow, it is critical that users of the site interact with each other and contribute content to the site. We study the role of social ties in motivating user preference expression, a form of user content contribution, in an online social media community. We examine the role of three types of ties, reciprocated, follower and followee ties, and assess whether the structural and relational properties of a user’s social network moderate the social influence effect in user contribution. A unique disaggregate level panel dataset of users’ contributions and social tie formation activities from an online music platform is employed to study the impact of social ties. To address identification issues, we adopt a quasi-experimental approach based on dynamic propensity score matching. The results provide strong evidence of the influence of online network ties in online contribution behavior. We find that the influence of reciprocated ties is the greatest, followed by influence from followee ties and then follower ties. Additional analysis reveals that reciprocated and followee ties have even greater influence when they contribute new information for a focal user. Structural embeddedness and tie strength among network ties are found to amplify the effect of social contagion in online contribution. We conduct several sensitivity and robustness checks that lend credible support to our findings. The results add to the greater understanding of social influence in online contribution and provide valuable managerial insights into designs of online communities to enable greater user participation.

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