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Management Science And Engineering Department's Lecture

Topic:    The Impact of Introductory Incentives on New Users: Evidence from an Online Health Community

Speaker:Xiaofei Zhang

Time:      12:00 Dec.14 2017

Place:      Room1008,Mingde Bussiness Building


This paper studies the impact of short-term introductory incentives on new users in online communities. Many online communities now employ introductory incentives to attract new users and motivate user contributions, but the benefit of such incentives is still unclear. We draw on a policy change in a large online health community to compare new physicians who are affected by the policy versus those who are not. We find that even though introductory incentives increase contribution quantity during the policy window, such incentives can significantly decrease contribution quantity after the policy. The policy also harms the community by lowering contribution quality. On the bright side, introductory incentives can increase user retention and thus induce more contribution for the community over the lifecycle of users. Moreover, the effects of such incentives are contingent on users’ offline seniority, which creates opportunities for the platform to target different user groups with different incentives. These results are consistent with various robustness checks using different control groups. This research contributes to the literature on identifying the impact of introductory incentives and intertemporal change of monetary incentives in online communities. The findings also provide novel insights for incentive-driven online communities.