Money Talks … to Online Opinion Leaders: What Motivates Opinion Leaders To Make Social-Network Referrals?

Mengze Shi

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Andrea C. Wojnicki

Independent marketing consultant

Management slant

  • This research substantiates and reinforces the significant role of online "opinion leaders" in the marketplace. Referral campaigns not only should be targeted but offer valued, tangible rewards to opinion leaders.
  • Empirical results indicate that consumers' online referral rates are higher when extrinsic (i.e., financial) rewards are conferred, particularly among opinion leaders.
  • Opinion leaders may have developed a reputation of intrinsically motivated referrals, shielding them from potential loss of social capital associated with extrinsic rewards.
  • Despite the rhetoric that incentive strategies may backfire, tangibly compensating consumers for making product referrals to other consumers in their social network may be effective, particularly as opinion leaders may be most likely to respond to such tactics.