Strategic Network Narration: Leveraging Random Encounters as a Strategy for Attracting Audience Attention
Dr. Andy Back
Ph.D. Candidate in Strategic Management
Joseph L. Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
When social actors narrate their network ties with high-status others, the ties not only endorse the actors’ quality but also attract audience attention. Although such network ties’ functions are two-fold, prior research primarily focuses on the quality-endorsing effect. By leveraging random ties, I am able to tease out the attention-attracting effect from the quality-endorsing effect. Specifically, I examine how actors of different status positions narrate their random ties. I argue that actors generally narrate their ties with higher-status others because doing so facilitates the trickle down of attention. Furthermore, I argue that high-status actors are more likely to narrate their high-status ties than low-status actors. While high-status actors enjoy magnified attention when associated with high-status others, low-status actors risk being perceived as instrumental or manipulative when narrating high-status ties. Using a natural experimental research design where gaming YouTubers are randomly assigned to others, I find support for my hypotheses about how network ties are leveraged when their main value stems from attracting attention. My results suggest that actors leverage their network ties differently depending on whether the source of value is endorsement or attention. This paper advances social network research by disentangling the attention and endorsement effects of ties.