Management Science and Information Systems' Seminar（2018-01）
Topic:Displaying Things in Common to Encourage Friendship Formation:A Large Randomized Field Experiment
Speaker:Tianshu Sun,USC Marshall School of Business
Time:Thursday, March 22th, 13:30--15:00
Place:Room K01, Guanghua Building 2
Friendship formation among different people is of central importance to online social networks sites and to the society in general. In this study, we investigate and empirically test whether and how displaying things in common may encourage friendship formation. In collaboration with a large online social network, we carefully design a large-scale in vivo randomized field experiment involving over 50 million viewer-profile pairs, in which the prominence of ‘things in common’ information is randomly varied when an user is browsing another’s profile. We find that displaying things in common may significantly increase the probability of friend request and subsequent friendship formation. More interestingly and surprisingly, displaying things in common is only effective for people who have little in common: the causal effect is large and significant for those viewer-profile pairs with no mutual friends and only share few things in common. Such findings suggest that our network intervention may effectively connect people with different background, increase diversity of users' friendship ties and reduce homophily in the social network. We further explore the causal effect of different types of things in common (mutual city, hometown, work, education and page likes) for a wide range of users with different demographics and social status. The discovered heterogeneity also sheds light on the underlying mechanism. In summary, our experiment is among the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of network intervention in encouraging friending behavior, especially for people from different background. Our findings also provide a clear empirical evidence and nuanced insights on the role of preference (over similar attributes) in driving network formation and homophily.
Tianshu Sun's research conducted in collaboration with leading private and public sector platforms addresses how firms can use business analytics and large-scale field experiments in conjunction with big data to improve business decisions. His current research focuses on understanding 1) how digital platforms can use IT-enabled and analytics-driven interventions to influence information sharing among individuals, and 2) how organizations can leverage mobile devices and Internet of Things to influence individuals' offline behaviors. Tianshu has worked closely with a variety of organizations including Facebook, Alibaba, LivingSocial, Adobe and Ministry of Health. Many findings from these studies have been implemented by collaborating organizations. Tianshu has given over 60 talks at top universities and international conferences, and has research papers published in top journals including Management Science and Journal of Health Economics. Tianshu's research has received nine Best Paper Awards, and has been supported by grants from the Adobe, Soros Foundation and Marketing Science Institute.
Your participation is warmly welcomed!