Curation-based network marketing: strategies for network growth and electronic word-of-mouth diffusion

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Earnie Mitchell Church Jr. (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Lakshmi Iyer

Abstract: In the last couple of years, a new aspect of online social networking has emerged, in which the strength of social network connections is based not on social ties but mutually shared interests. This dissertation studies these "curation-based" online social networks (CBN) and their suitability for the diffusion of electronic word-of-mouth information (eWOM). Within CBN, users do not rely on profiles full of personal information to identify network ``friends''. Rather, CBN users curate collections of digital content that becomes their digital self-expression within the network. This digital content can then be viewed, commented on, and shared across the pages of other CBN users. As the dissertation will show, this process of digital content curation, a relatively new online practice that centers around the collection and sharing of rich digital media, builds CBN, and presents exciting opportunities for the study of eWOM. The dissertation presents three studies around digital content curation, CBN, and eWOM diffusion. Study 1 examines individual level antecedents of digital content curation behavior. In this study, we use theory from sociology and behavioral psychology to develop a model of user intentions towards digital content curation behavior. We find that digital content curation is comprised of a mixture of social and utilitarian motivations, and that the management and organization of digital content is a major reason that people spend time on CBN. Study 2 examines the way that digital content curation behaviors grow CBN. We study a sample of 1800 CBN users to determine the way that their digital content curation behaviors attract and retain interested CBN followers. We find that the most successful CBN users are those that can generate an eWOM response around their content collections. Additionally, we find that textual eWOM plays a very limited role in attracting followers in the CBN environment. Finally, Study 3 examines eWOM diffusion by analyzing data on the structure and diffusion of digital content through real-world CBN network structures. This descriptive analysis of eWOM in CBN presents details on the way that CBN data is structured, and the methods and techniques that can be used to collect and analyze real-world eWOM collected from a CBN site. The study uses the UCINET network visualization software package to examine the networks of thirty companies operating CBN pages. Using a unique data set specifically compiled for this study, we are able to visualize the diffusion of curated digital content through the networks of these companies, and show how companies can identify their most influential followers as targets for further eWOM and traditional marketing efforts. Together, the three dissertation studies offer a holistic view of content curation behavior and curation-based online social networking and has the potential to fill the gap in the literature on information diffusion and online marketing. We make substantial contributions to the areas of sociology, economics, and marketing, and offer one of the first treatments of the role of digital content curation in online social networks.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Curation-based Social Networks, Digital Content Curation, Economics of Information, Electronic Word-of-Mouth, Social earned media, Social network analysis
Online social networks $x Economic aspects
Online social networks $x Social aspects
Information society $x Economic aspects
Information society $x Social aspects

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