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Consumer susceptibility to social influence in new product diffusion networks: how does network location matter?

Honghong Zhang (School of Business, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China)
Xiushuang Gong (School of Business, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 31 December 2020

Issue publication date: 11 May 2021

537

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to empirically investigate how susceptibility to social influence in new product adoption varies with one’s structural location in a social network.

Design/methodology/approach

The social network data were collected based on a sociometric network survey with 589 undergraduate students. Social network analysis and ordinary least squares regression analyses were used to test the hypotheses.

Findings

This study finds that consumers with high degree centrality (i.e. hubs) who have a large number of connections to others and consumers with high betweenness centrality (i.e. bridges) who connect otherwise distant groups in social networks are both less sensitive to informational influence from others. More importantly, the authors find evidence that consumers with moderate levels of degree/betweenness centrality are more susceptible to normative influence and status competition than those with low or high degree/betweenness centrality. The inverse-U patterns in the above relations are consistent with middle-status conformity and anxiety.

Research limitations/implications

This research complements social influence and new product diffusion research by documenting important contingencies (i.e. network locations) in consumer susceptibility to different types of social influence from a social network perspective.

Practical implications

The findings will assist marketers to leverage social influence by activating relevant social ties with effective messages in their network marketing strategies.

Originality/value

This research provides a better understanding of the mechanisms driving susceptibility to social influence in new product diffusion.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Humanities and Social Science Foundation of Ministry of Education of China (No. 20YJC630204, No. 20YJC630025), the Philosophy and Social Science Foundation of Jiangsu Planning Office (No. 2019SJA0760, No. 2019SJA0761), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 72002083), the Social Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (No. 19GLD004), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (No. 2019JDZD07).

Citation

Zhang, H. and Gong, X. (2021), "Consumer susceptibility to social influence in new product diffusion networks: how does network location matter?", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 5, pp. 1469-1488. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-06-2019-0491

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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