Timing Matters: How Social Influence Affects Adoption Pre- and Post-Product Release

Sara B. Soderstrom, Brian Uzzi, Derek D. Rucker, James H. Fowler, Daniel Diermeier

Sociological Science, October 24, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a40

Social influence is typically studied after a product is released. Yet, audience expectations and discussions begin before a product’s release. This observation suggests a need to understand adoption processes over a product’s life cycle. To explore pre- and postrelease social influence processes, this article uses survey data from Americans exposed to word of mouth for 309 Hollywood movies released over two and a half years. The data suggest pre- and postrelease social influences operate differently. Prerelease social influence displays a critical transition point with relation to adoption: before a critical value, any level of social influence is negligibly related to adoption, but after the critical value, the relationship between social influence and adoption is large and substantive. In contrast, postrelease social influence exhibits a positive linear relationship with adoption. Prerelease social influence is argued to require more exposures than postrelease social influence because of differences in the diagnosticity and accessibility of the information. To complement the survey data, computational models are used to test alternative hypotheses. Evidence from the computational models supports the proposed model of social influence.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Sara B. Soderstrom: Organizational Studies and Program in the Environment, University of Michigan
Email: capasb@umich.edu

Brian Uzzi: Management and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Email: uzzi@kellogg.northwestern.edu

Derek D. Rucker: Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Email: d-rucker@kellogg.northwestern.edu

James H. Fowler: Political Science, University of California, San Diego
Email: fowler@ucsd.edu

Daniel Diermeier: Provost, The University of Chicago
Email: ddiermeier@uchicago.edu

Acknowledgements: This research was sponsored by the Northwestern University Institute on Complex Systems, the Army Research Laboratory under Cooperative Agreement Number W911NF-09-2-0053, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant BAA-11-64, Social Media in Strategic Communication. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the Army Research Laboratory or the U.S. government.

  • Citation: Soderstrom, Sara B., Brian Uzzi, Derek D. Rucker, James H. Fowler and Daniel Diermeier. 2016. “Timing Matters: How Social Influence Affects Adoption Pre- and Post-product Release.” Sociological Science 3: 915-939.
  • Received: February 24, 2016
  • Accepted: August 21, 2016
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Gabriel Rossman
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a40

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One Reaction to Timing Matters: How Social Influence Affects Adoption Pre- and Post-Product Release

  1. Ezra Zuckerman December 9, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    Very interesting paper. I was struck by what seem to be the connections between this paper and Rossman’s 2014 paper, “The Diffusion of the Legitimate and the Diffusion of Legitimacy.” Since Gabriel was the deputy editor on “Timing Matters,” perhaps he did not want to toot his horn too much. But it seems to me that “Timing Matters” is nicely complementary with “Diffusion of the Legitimate.” In both cases, we have a contrast between two distinct contexts for diffusion– (a) one where there is a great deal of uncertainty and skepticism about a novel practice such that the default is failure to diffuse (most illegitimate practices stay illegitimate, most movies fail to catch fire) but this default can be overcome by social influence; and (b) one where the uncertainty has been removed, and social influence can no longer be seen. To be clear, I think “Timing Matters” is adding a nice new twist to the line pursued by Rossman 2014 (not least of which is some great empirical evidence). I’m just saying that it seems productive for future literature to recognize how the two papers complement one another.