Motivating User-Generated Content: The Unintended Consequences of Incentive Thresholds

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Publication History

Received: January 19, 2021
Revised: October 15, 2021; June 30, 2022
Accepted: August 15, 2022
Published Online as Articles in Advance: August 22, 2023
Published in Issue: September 1, 2023

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While monetary rewards have been widely used by online platforms to motivate user-generated content (UGC) contributions, users may not always demonstrate the expected behaviors. Unintended consequences of reward policies, exemplified by unchanged or reduced UGC contributions, may occur. Through two natural experiments, this study investigates the implications of providing users with an incentive structure that rewards users’ continued contribution according to the volume of UGC. Using a unique data set on two completion-contingent incentive programs from a popular online aesthetic medicine platform, we examine user responses to reward thresholds. We found that after users reach a threshold to obtain a monetary reward, they are less likely to continue contributing UGC, suggesting a minimal-effort effect. Our findings indicate that social approval from peers helps to mitigate unintended user responses to monetary reward policies. We also observed that monetary rewards primarily improve the quality and website traffic of low- to moderate-quality contributions.

Additional Details
Author Liuyi He, Jifeng Luo, Yisong Tang, Zhiyan Wu, and Han Zhang
Year 2023
Volume 47
Issue 3
Keywords Monetary rewards, incentive thresholds, unintended consequences, online aesthetic medicine community, user-generated content, natural experiment
Page Numbers 1015-1044
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