Research Papers in Economics, Department of Economics, Stockholm University
Like What You Like or Like What Others Like? - Conformity and Peer Effects on Facebook
() and Mathias Ekström
Abstract: Users of the social networking service Facebook have the
possibility to post status updates for their friends to read. In turn,
friends may react to these short messages by writing comments or by
pressing a Like button to show their appreciation. Making use of five
Swedish accounts, we set up a natural field experiment to study whether
users are more prone to Like an update if someone else has done so before.
We distinguish between three different treatment conditions: (i) one
unknown user Likes the update, (ii) three unknown users Like the update and
(iii) one peer Likes the update. Whereas the first condition had no effect,
both the second and the third increased the probability to express a
positive opinion by a factor of two or more, suggesting that both number of
predecessors and social proximity matters. We identify three reasonable
explanations for the observed herding behavior and isolate conformity as
the primary mechanism in our experiment.
Keywords: Herding Behavior; Conformity; Peer Effects; Field Experiment; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: A14; C93; D03; D83; (follow links to similar papers)
26 pages, October 22, 2011
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