Ecological preservation and sustainable development depend on active public involvement. The emergence of online environmental communities greatly facilitates people’s participation in green endeavors. The population penetration of such platforms accelerates as existing users persuade people around them and media coverage further attracts public attention. This snowball effect plays an important role in the user base expansion, but the specific mechanism of social influence involved is yet to be examined. Based on the social influence theory, cognitive response theory, and elaboration likelihood model, this study establishes a research model depicting the relationship between persuasion in terms of social influence and outcomes in terms of behavioral intention and actual participation through the mediation of cognitive responses in terms of perceived value and perceived risk. Empirical results from survey observations show that social influence has both moderated (by education) and mediated (through perceived risk) effects on behavioral intention, which leads to actual participation. Meanwhile, social influence shapes the perceived value, which has a direct and strong impact on actual participation. These central and peripheral routes through which social influence affects individual participation yield useful theoretical and practical implications on human behavior with online environmental communities.
Zhang, Yali; Zhang, Haixin; Yang, Zhaojun; Sun, Jun; and Tan, Chrissie Diane, "Snowball Effect of User Participation in Online Environmental Communities: Elaboration Likelihood under Social Influence" (2019). Information Systems Faculty Publications and Presentations. 11.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health