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Michael Frutiger (Ph.D. Candidate), Dr. Eric Overby, and Dr. D. J. Wu study the value of social network platform integration for an online community.

Research on online communities has generated multiple insights into why people join and contribute to online communities. From this research, a theoretical understanding of how to design online communities is emerging. We contribute to this understanding by investigating the impact of an increasingly common but understudied design option available to online communities: whether to integrate with a social network platform such as Facebook or Google+. Social network platform integration may provide several benefits to an online community, including creating more social interaction opportunities for members and helping members share personal information with each other to facilitate the creation of social bonds. Theory suggests that both of these factors (opportunities for interaction and disclosure of personal data) enhance the success of bond-based online communities, i.e., those in which member attachment to the community is driven by social bonds with other members. However, some elements of the theory have not been tested, and the theory does not consider the possibility that interaction opportunities and disclosure of personal information might harm the online community by creating information privacy concerns among users.

To address this gap, we tested the effect of implementing the “Login with Facebook” feature on new member registration and member social bond formation in an online virtual world community. Using a randomized field experiment as well as archival data analysis, we found that Facebook integration led to lower registration and lower social bond formation. I.e., it had a consistently negative effect on the online community. In addition to contributing to theory about the design of online communities, our results are also of practical interest to managers of online communities who have implemented or are planning to implement social network platform integration as well as to social network platforms who would like for their integration services to be more widely adopted.

Jiao (Tina) Xu (Ph.D. candidate), Dr. Chris Forman and Dr. Jeffrey Hu, study consumers’ cross-platform consumption behavior on mobile devices.

Although the availability and popularity of the mobile Internet has increased dramatically in recent years, its effect on consumers’ online behaviors and subsequent implications for mobile service providers, marketers, and policy makers remains poorly understood. Tina’s research focuses on the interrelationships of different platforms for accessing the mobile Internet.

She has one published paper, “News Media Platforms: Complements or Substitutes? Evidence from Mobile Phone Usage,” Journal of Marketing, 78 (4), 97-112, which addresses how the adoption of mobile applications (apps) influences the use of corresponding mobile websites. This article examines the interrelationship of the uses of different mobile media channels to access online news. The media industry has undergone a fundamental shift as new online distribution channels proliferate, raising a critical question for practitioners: How do people consume media in multichannel environments? With this article, she offers a new framework and data to understand user consumption of media contents across multiple mobile device channels. As an empirical investigation of consumer responses to the introduction of a new mobile news app, she considers the introduction of the Fox News app and determines whether consumers who adopted the app increase or decrease their news consumption through the Fox News mobile website. The empirical analysis includes a quarterly survey of U.S. mobile smartphone users during 2009 and 2010. Adoption of the Fox News app increased news consumption on the Fox News mobile website, indicating their complementarity. Furthermore, this complementarity was stronger among consumers with narrower media consumption tastes and preferences for a particular ideological slant to the news; consumers who are time constrained instead exhibit weaker complementarity. This study enhances understanding of mobile advertising in a multichannel environment.

She has one working paper, “Fixed-Line and Mobile Internet: Complements or Substitutes?” which investigates whether fixed-line and mobile Internet are complements or substitutes by examining the impact of the local speed for fixed-line Internet service on consumers’ decisions to adopt and use the mobile Internet. In this empirical analysis, she examines whether the speed of local fixed-line Internet and mobile Internet are associated with more or less mobile Internet adoption and usage. She also reveals how the average effects of local Internet speeds can mask significant heterogeneity in consumer responses. A two-stage logit model uses novel data pertaining to U.S.-based mobile phone users and local Internet coverage data. Consumers first choose whether to adopt a mobile data plan, and then choose whether to perform online activities on their mobile phones. With a control function approach, she identifies the effects of fixed-line and mobile Internet speed using instrumental variables. She also conducts falsification analyses to show that the effects do not exist when they shouldn’t. The impact of local fixed-line Internet speed on mobile Internet adoption and usage is negative; if the local fixed-line connection is insufficient, consumers tend to get online through their mobile phones. The effect is stronger among younger consumers and for consumers living in areas with relatively low fixed-line Internet speed. Neither fixed-line nor mobile Internet speed has significant impacts on mobile-specific offline services such as taking photos or videos. By demonstrating the levels of substitution or complementarity between fixed-line and mobile Internet and identifying consumer segments for whom these effects are greater, this paper provides insight for policy makers regarding competition and for mobile carriers regarding their optimal infrastructure investment plans.

Karthik Babu (Ph.D. Candidate), Dr. Jeffrey Hu  and Dr. Sridhar Narasimhan  study the effect of social media on Flash sales.

With the emergence of social media, e-commerce firms are increasingly embedding social media widgets for Facebook likes, Pinterest pins etc. into online product pages in the hopes of creating awareness or Word Of Mouth (WOM) through the spread of likes and pins. Karthik's research objective is to examine the role played by these social media activities in promoting sales of new products in a e-commerce site that uses a limited time period flash sale business model.

To study this relationship, he wrote a web-scraping tool using Python libraries that was used to collect both sales and aggregate social media activity data for all new products launched from June 1st, 2013 to July 31st, 2013 by a popular e-commerce platform that specializes in introducing products made by local artisans and craftsman to the US national market. This data covers more than 20,000 products that were on sale for either three or seven days. He uses the advanced regression analysis techniques such as fixed effects model, Arellano-Bond dynamic panel model and Fixed Effects with Instrumental variable estimation to quantify the effect of each social media channel ­ Facebook Likes, Pinterest Pins and Faves ­ on sales. He also uses Machine Learning algorithms to classify products into different categories based on the textual description given in the product pages.

His initial results suggest that while these social media activities do have a statistically significant impact on product sales, their magnitude of impact varies for each channel. These findings would be useful for e-commerce managers as well as site designers to decide on the type of social networks to integrate with the site to get the greatest benefit.