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Digging deeper into responsibility: an investigation of responses to online help-request marketing campaigns in social networking groups

Zhongtao Hu (College of Management and Economics, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 28 February 2023

Issue publication date: 18 March 2024




There is a growing trend among online merchants to conduct help-request marketing campaigns (HMCs), which refers to a kind of marketing campaign that leverages participants' help-request to encourage the subsequent engagement of participants' online friends. The paper aims to investigate how individuals respond to online HMCs in social networking groups (SNGs). Integrating the norm activation model and regulatory focus theory, this paper examines the mediation effects of the two facets of responsibility perception, i.e. perceived causality and perceived answerability.


A field experiment was conducted by organizing a real HMC on WeChat. To manipulate request individuation, experimental confederates were engaged to serve as requesters in the HMC. The actual responses provided by the recipients (subjects) were captured via the HMC pages. The multiple-group analysis was used for data analysis.


Empirical results reveal that request individuation strengthens the effect of relationship closeness on perceived causality but reverses the effect of relationship closeness on perceived answerability from being positive to negative. Except for the negligible impact of perceived answerability on inaction, both perceived causality and perceived answerability affect recipients' reactions to HMCs as expected.

Practical implications

First, social media platforms should promote other-oriented prosocial values when designing features or launching campaigns. Second, the designers of HMCs should introduce a “tagging” feature in HMCs and provide additional bonuses for requesters who perform tagging. Third, HMC requesters should prudently select tagging targets when making a request.


First, this paper contributes to the literature on social media engagement by identifying responsibility as an other-oriented motivation for individuals' social media engagement. Second, this paper also extends our understanding of responsibility by dividing it into perceived causality and answerability as well as measuring them with self-developed instruments. Third, this study contributes to the research on WOM by demonstrating that individuals' response behaviors toward help-requests embedded in HMCs can take the form of proactive helping, reactive helping or inaction.



Hu, Z. (2024), "Digging deeper into responsibility: an investigation of responses to online help-request marketing campaigns in social networking groups", Information Technology & People, Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 677-699.



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