Word-of-mouth in the era of digital social networks
Study: Opinion seeking in a social network-enabled product review website: a study of word-of-mouth in the era of digital social networks
Many online shoppers search social networks for information before making a purchase. The study, therefore, examines how shoppers use their social networks—that is, core network of online friends or extended network of strangers—to search for information.
How it was studied:
The authors distinguish between two types of opinion-seeking behaviors: (1) exploiting, seeking peers’ opinions in one’s core network (i.e., online friends), and (2) exploring, seeking peers’ opinions from one’s extended network (i.e., strangers). Then, they conducted a free-simulation study with a restaurant review website connected to Facebook.
The study finds that online shoppers engage more with their core network of online friends when they are “better connected.” Online friends’ opinions better help shoppers evaluate products, and generate stronger enjoyment compared to opinions from strangers. The study provides three essential insights into how online shoppers search for information in social networks:
- Exploitation has a stronger beneficial effect on shoppers’ utilitarian and hedonic experiences than exploration,
- there is a strong positive influence of social capital (both structural and relational) on shoppers’ propensity to engage in exploitation, and
- high social capital does not induce the expected extensive substitution of exploration with exploitation.