Money Talks … to Online Opinion Leaders

What Motivates Opinion Leaders To Make Social-Network Referrals?

Mengze Shi, Andrea C. Wojnicki

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This study investigated the effectiveness of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations for consumers' online social-network referrals, specifically across “opinion leaders” and “non–opinion leaders.” The authors utilized a unique dataset that matched a survey with an online field experiment. The empirical results indicated “money talks”—that is, online referral rates were higher when extrinsic rewards were conferred. Notably, the effect of an extrinsic reward was significantly stronger among opinion leaders. In this paper, the authors highlight the significance of reputational concerns and referral motivations in this context. Opinion leaders may have developed a reputation of intrinsically motivated referrals across their social networks, shielding them from potential loss of social capital associated with extrinsic rewards.