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Why internet users are willing to pay for social networking services

Kuo‐Lun Hsiao (Department of Information Management, National Taichung Institute of Technology, Taichung City, Taiwan, Republic of China)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




In recent years more and more users have begun to use social networking sites (SNSs). Visiting these sites has become a regular habit of many users. However most of the users only use the free services of the sites and are unwilling to pay for services. Therefore, in order to understand what factors affect users' intention to continue to pay for services, this study proposes a research model based on value theory and the academic literature on switching barriers.


An online questionnaire was developed and used to collect research data. The responses of 211 SNS members who pay subscription fees for advanced services were used to test the hypotheses in the research model.


All of the seven study hypotheses were supported. The results indicated that perceived value and service degradation barriers are the main factors which directly influence the intention to pay. Together they account for 37.4 per cent of the variance in intention. Additionally the results demonstrated that sunk costs and lost performance costs both had significant impact on service degradation barriers while enjoyment, social value, and perceived fees were the main determinants of the intention to pay.

Practical implications

SNS managers could raise users' perceived value by enhancing the social value and enjoyment of SNSs. In addition they can provide paid members with exclusive member services to increase the barrier. To sum up, in order to increase customers' perceived value, SNS service providers need to understand the real needs of their major customers. These users will be more willing to pay for the services they prefer and feel they need and then recommend that other users use or pay for the services.


This study provides a comprehensive framework of the influence of perceived value and service degradation barriers on users' intention to continue to pay for SNSs. The research results could be generalised to other social Web 2.0 services.



Hsiao, K. (2011), "Why internet users are willing to pay for social networking services", Online Information Review, Vol. 35 No. 5, pp. 770-788.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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