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Viral altruism? A natural field experiment of social contagion in on-line networks

  • Nicola Lacetera

    ()

    (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto)

  • Mario Macis

    ()

    (Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University)

  • Angelo Mele

    ()

    (Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University)

We present preliminary results from a small-scale natural field experiment aimed at exploring online social contagion, with an application to charitable giving. We worked in partnership with Heifer International, a non-profit organization aimed at fighting poverty in developing countries, and HelpAttack!, the developer of a Facebook application that facilitates donations to charities while broadcasting such activities to the donors’ Facebook contacts. We ran a series of marketing campaigns, and randomized the broadcasting of users’ pledges, thereby creating exogenous variation in the information that users’ contacts were receiving. Although our campaigns reached as many as about 13 million Facebook users, 6,000 users clicked on the ad and only 18 pledges were made, without any subsequent pledge from these users’ contacts. We offer potential explanations for this finding on the absence of network effects, and outline our plans for future developments of this on-going project.

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File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Mele_12-16.pdf
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Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 12-16.

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Length: 15 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:1216
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

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  1. Benabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2005. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 1695, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Dean Karlan & John A. List, 2007. "Does Price Matter in Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1774-1793, December.
  3. repec:feb:artefa:0106 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Abhijit Banerjee & Arun G. Chandrasekhar & Esther Duflo & Matthew O. Jackson, 2012. "The Diffusion of Microfinance," NBER Working Papers 17743, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. John List & Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for altruism and social pressure in charitable giving," Natural Field Experiments 00137, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. John List, 2008. "Informed consent in social science," Artefactual Field Experiments 00086, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2008. "Social Image Concerns and Pro-Social Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 3771, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. David Reiley & John List, 2008. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00091, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Avi Goldfarb & Catherine Tucker, 2012. "Shifts in Privacy Concerns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 349-53, May.
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