Social Nudges Boost Productivity on Online Platforms: Evidence from Field Experiments
41 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2020 Last revised: 8 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 27, 2020
Extending prior work studying how managers can lift productivity, we examine a low-cost, information-based intervention that is conducted by other agents in the work environment. Specifically, we study social nudges on online platforms whereby co-users connected with a worker on a platform (or “neighbors”) encourage the worker to produce more (content, products, or services). We expect social nudges to boost productivity by conveying neighbors’ recognition. To test the effectiveness of social nudges, we conducted a randomized field experiment (N=1,526,574) on a video-sharing social network platform where users can act as both content providers and viewers. Treatment providers could receive a message sent by their neighbors encouraging them to produce more videos, whereas control providers could not. Such a simple social nudge boosted video supply by 9.05% and the number of active providers by 10.27% on the receiving day, subsequently increasing the video consumption of these providers' content by 5.56%. Providers who were historically less recognized exhibited larger effects. We also demonstrate that social nudges indeed expand, instead of simply shifting, supply of video content and that the productivity benefits of receiving a social nudge can last five days. Furthermore, leveraging another experiment where treatment providers could receive a message from the platform encouraging them to produce more videos, we provide suggestive evidence that social nudges from neighbors more strongly boost productivity than nudges from the platform. We replicate the main effect of social nudges in a second experiment. Our findings highlight the value of leveraging co-user influence for online platforms.
Keywords: Social Nudge, Information-based Interventions, Productivity, Online Platform Operations, Field Experiment
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