Examining gifting through social network services: A social exchange theory perspective

Hee Woong Kim, Atreyi Kankanhalli, So Hyun Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The increasing popularity of social network services (SNS) presents an opportunity to offer gifting services through SNS. For givers, gifting can be an important means to enhance social relationships. On the other hand, for SNS providers, members' gifting can serve as a major source of revenue. As SNS providers continue to face challenges in generating revenues, understanding how to stimulate gifting through SNS can allow them to profit from members' relationships. However, there is little understanding of what drives members' gifting through SNS, with limited prior research on online gifting. Thus motivated, we develop a research model of the antecedents of SNS gifting that builds on social exchange theory and prior gifting literature, and incorporates the unique aspects of such gifting (that we refer to as microgifting, with low-price digital voucher gifts). The theoretical model was validated through a field study, in which both subjective and objective data were collected from an SNS that has been successful in offering such gifting services. Our findings highlight the effects of perceived worth, SNS gifting experience, and the number of SNS friends on the frequency of SNS gifting. The results also show that expected benefits (i.e., reciprocity, pleasure, relationship support, convenience, and immediacy of gift sending) and costs (i.e., impersonality) indirectly impact SNS gifting frequency through the assessment of perceived worth. The study contributes to research by adding to our understanding of this newapproach of gifting through SNS, i.e., microgifting. It also lends insights on how SNS providers can offer such services to tap this source of revenue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-828
Number of pages24
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 INFORMS.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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