Business & Information Systems Engineering

Document Type

Research Paper


Content website providers have two main goals: They seek to attract consumers and to keep them on their websites as long as possible. To reach potential consumers, they can utilize several online channels, such as paid search results or advertisements on social media, all of which usually require a substantial marketing budget. However, with rising user numbers of online communication tools, website providers increasingly integrate social sharing buttons on their websites to encourage existing consumers to facilitate referrals to their social networks. While little is known about this social form of guiding consumers to a content website, the study proposes that the way in which consumers reach a website is related to their stickiness to the website and their propensity to refer content to others. By using a unique clickstream data set of a video-on-demand website, the study compares consumers referred by their social network to those consumers arriving at the website via organic search or social media advertisements in terms of stickiness to the website (e.g., visit length, number of page views, video starts) and referral likelihood. The results show that consumers referred through social referrals spend more time on the website, view more pages, and start more videos than consumers who respond to social media advertisements, but less than those coming through organic search. Concerning referral propensity, the results indicate that consumers attracted to a website through social referrals are more likely to refer content to others than those who came through organic search or social media advertisements. The study offers direct insights to managers and recommends an increase in their efforts to promote social referrals on their websites.