Peer influence in social networks (SN) is vastly important to our economies and societies. As the case may be (among billions of cases an hour), this influence magnifies, enhances, and distorts the flow of news, opinions, advice, data, and statements that traverse these encompassing networks. The phenomena surrounding SN and the (nontransparent) minute details of their design are a dominant factor driving the epochal change we experience in our world. Several fields of knowledge make them an object of their study. Our own field is in an excellent position to contribute to a granular understanding of what social networks or social media do and what they should be doing in the lives of people, in the shared fortune of communities, in the functioning of institutions, in the governing of countries, and in the affairs of the world at large. The opening paper of the issue indeed provides a contribution to both the understanding of peer influence and to the methodology of its study. Pedro Ferreira, Rahul Telang, and Miguel Godinho de Matos investigate the influence the network friends have on the focal consumer’s churn and tariff-plan choice in the mobile telecommunications marketplace. The authors are offering a method of separating peer influence from homophily, an econometric model of the setting that they exercise on an extensive data panel, and conclusions that expand our theoretical and pragmatic knowledge. They show how peer influence exerts itself in a stepwise reaction of friends and that the customer lifetime value understates the value of customers as social beings, with friends whom they influence.
Influence on social media is the subject of the next study as well. Hailiang Chen, Yu Jeffrey Hu, and Shan Huang turn to the equity recommendations on social media to investigate the effects of monetary incentives provided to the amateur analysts who offer investment advice on these networks. As a premium service in a crowdsourced stock-research community, the remunerated advice is being compared to the advice offered by the unrewarded content contributors. The salutary effects of financial rewards are found to include the increased volume and the diversity of contributions, but no enhancement in their quality. This work adds to our knowledge regarding the financial rewards in crowdsourcing and opens the door to the experiments with the effects of the varying levels of rewards in various contexts.
Digital geography is the term introduced and, apparently, contested vis-à-vis the geographers’ usage, by the authors of the next paper in order to express the Web’s traversal by a user moving from one website to another. Brian Kimball Dunn, Narayan Ramasubbu, Dennis F. Galletta, and Paul Benjamin Lowry contend that the border strength of a site, a concept they introduce and define, has a positive effect on the users’ recognition of their virtual location. The authors draw on the literature in experiential geography, limning the sense of a place which, as distinguished from its location, imbues the site with a distinguishable meaning (ancient Romans would call it genius loci). Increase the border strength of your site, make it distinctive in a meaningful way to the users entering it, and the users traversing the Web will attribute the credit for the experience to your site—that is the authors’ contention. The contention is refined into the hypotheses that are tested, and the empirics indeed show that the stronger a digital border the stronger is also the credit attribution to the focal website by a wanderer in the digital geography. The work opens a broad avenue to further research on the experiential geography of the Web, a lens that can help us see more clearly the relationships between the users and the digital objects, or websites and customers.
With the progress of computer technologies, digital objects can be imbued with the ever more anthropomorphic (human-like) characteristics. This could be deployed in electronic commerce to promote products. Would the customers be willing to pay more for the products so promoted? Lingyao (Ivy) Yuan and Alan R. Dennis study this question in the context of an online auction, differentially adding auditory and visual anthropomorphizing features to a product display. The authors go beyond their finding of the positive effects for the sellers of the visual features on the willingness to pay, as opposed to the lack of effects of the auditory features. Important to the further theory development, they find that it is the attachment to the product, induced by the anthropomorphic features, which can lead the users to pay more.
Peer-produced content, such as—emblematically—the contents of Wikipedia, has always been questioned with regard to quality. Beyond question is the obvious improvement over time in the quality of the reputable sites co-created by users. Quality assessment of the individual components combines human-produced ratings with automated approaches. Human assessment does not scale and moves the issue one level up: Who is assessing the assessors? The authors of the next paper, Srikar Velichety, Sudha Ram, and Jesse Bockstedt present a design-science paper introducing a novel automated assessment approach. They are forecasting the quality of the content item, such as a Wikipedia article, based on the history of the item’s development and the coordination activities in this development (e.g., a discussion record). The model includes the identification of the features relevant to the quality assessment in the given context. The authors are able to demonstrate the superiority of their approach, which is widely applicable to other settings.
We know exceedingly well that mobile information technologies (smartphone, largely, but the wearables have been moving in) are with us every waking minute. What about selling to the time of day by highlighting the product’s value that may appeal to the user during the given time segment? This is the subject of the research presented here by Chee Wei Phang, Xueming Luo, and Zheng Fang. In a theoretically-founded field experiment, accompanied by a survey, the authors find a higher adoption of the product when the message is tied to the time segment. The time-based targeting avoids the privacy concerns of the location-based advertising and is well worth further exploration and, perhaps, exploitation.
Crowdfunding has firmly entered the fundraising practice, particularly for the more exciting projects. The authors of the next paper, Gen Li and Jing Wang, study the backer motivations of reward-based crowdfunding, where rewards are non-financial, with Kickstarter being the leading such platform, as well as the source of the extensive dataset used by the authors. A funding threshold needs to be reached for the project to take effect. The researchers find a strong prosocial motivation in the backing of the projects, which overwhelms the loss aversion, a well-known behavioral motivator. Among other findings, they also see a large number of backers entering the field as the funding threshold approaches, resembling the behavior of auction participants in the last seconds of online auctions. Several granular findings of the authors further point to the prosociality of campaign backers.
As we see and study the benefits of SN, we are ever more strongly recognizing—and need to study—their dark side. On that side is cyberbullying, the subject of the paper by Tommy K.H. Chan, Christy M.K. Cheung, and Randy Y.M. Wong. The authors take well-defined theoretical perspectives to investigate how the affordances of the SN sites and the environmental conditions combine with the characteristics of the likely offenders to produce the deviant behavior. The researchers proceed to test their encompassing model with survey empirics. The results contribute to the theory-building for the dark side of IT use and lead to pragmatic advice for prevention of cyberbullying.
Online reviews have attracted a voluminous body of research. Ashish Kumar Jha and Snehal Shah make an original contribution by investigating the influence of past reviews on the future ones with the use of the appraisal theory. That lens focuses on the individuals’ constructing meaning from a situation, this appraisal leading to a corresponding emotion and response. In social appraisal, this process is influenced by the behavior of a reference group. Via their empirics-based sentiment analysis, the authors find subtle aspects of the influence of past reviews. A hint to those who would strive to delete negative reviews of their offerings: They may be good for you!
The concluding paper of the issue moves us to the organizational level of analysis. Till J. Winkler and Jochen Wulf study the effects of the IT service management (ITSM), an integrated system for organizing and delivering IT services, driven by the specific user requirements. The ITSM practices are expected to result in the greater effectiveness of a firm’s IS operation. Do they? If so, how? The paper presents theory-based and empirically tested findings that confirm the positive effects of the ITSM capability on the IS effectiveness. It also surfaces the mechanisms through which these effects take place which, notably, include strategic conservativeness of the IS function. As sometimes contended and as established here, ITSM succeeds in the more stable contexts.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome the new members of our Editorial Board, Jan Marco Leimeister of the University of St. Gallen, Paul Benjamin Lowry of Virginia Tech, and Monideepa Tarafdar of Lancaster University. I also wish to offer thanks to the outgoing member of the Board, Alain Pinsonneault of McGill University, for his multi-year contribution to the quality of JMIS.