Popularity or Proximity: Characterizing the Nature of Social Influence in an Online Music Community

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Authors: Sanjeev Dewan, Yi-Jen (Ian) Ho and Jui Ramaprasad

Publication: Information Systems Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, March 2017

Abstract:

We study social influence in an online music community. In this community, users can listen to and “favorite” (or like) songs and follow the favoriting behavior of their social network friends—and the community as a whole. From an individual user’s perspective, two types of information on peer consumption are salient for each song: total number of favorites by the community as a whole and favoriting by their social network friends. Correspondingly, we study two types of social influence: popularity influence, driven by the total number of favorites from the community as a whole, and proximity influence, due to the favoriting behavior of immediate social network friends. Our quasi-experimental research design applies a variety of empirical methods to highly granular data from an online music community. Our analysis finds robust evidence of both popularity and proximity influence. Furthermore, popularity influence is more important for narrow-appeal music compared to broad-appeal music. Finally, the two types of influence are substitutes for one another, and proximity influence, when available, dominates the effect of popularity influence. We discuss implications for design and marketing strategies for online communities, such as the one studied in this paper.

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