Social Influence, Competition, and Free Riding: Examining Seller Interactions Within an Online Social Network


Received: May 19, 2018

Revised: August 1, 2019; October 11, 2020; June 18, 2021; September 22, 2021

Accepted: November 12, 2021

Published Online as Accepted Author Version: Forthcoming

Published Online as Articles in Advance: Forthcoming

Published in Issue: Forthcoming


Online social networks are increasingly being used to conduct commercial activities, and many online social networking platforms allow users to sell products to their online connections. Although extensive research has been conducted on the interactions among buyers within a social network, interactions among sellers have rarely been explored. Using seller data from a company that sells on a major online social networking platform in China, we empirically examine how a seller’s effort and sales performance are affected by the effort and sales performance of other sellers she is connected to (i.e., her inviter and invitees) and the commissions she has received. We find evidence for social influence and competition effects in the “inviter-to-invitee” direction and sellers’ free riding behavior driven by the commissions they receive from their invitees’ sales. These results extend the social network literature that has largely focused on connected buyers (or users) to connected sellers and offer implications for social networking platforms to promote seller participation.

Additional Details
Author He Huang, Yan Huang, Zhijun Yan, and Han Zhang
Year 2022
Keywords social network, connected sellers, seller interaction, social influence, seller competition, free riding
Page Numbers
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