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Experts In The Crowd And Their Influence On Herding In Reward-based Crowdfunding Of Cultural Projects

Aurélien Petit, Peter Wirtz

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AbstractThe present research investigates certification effects and rational herding in reward-based crowdfunding (RBCF) campaigns of cultural projects. Culture is a domain where expert opinion traditionally plays an important role. Consequently, to test the role of experts in collective behaviour and outcomes of crowdfunding campaigns, RBCF of cultural projects is a particularly relevant field. The authors analyse data obtained from France’s leading RBCF platform, Ulule, and show that the contributing crowd is heterogeneous, both in terms of expertise and willingness to follow information cascades. Testing the impact of different backer categories on (1) campaign success, (2) composition of the crowd and (3) overall day-by-day funding dynamics, the study provides evidence of the existence of both a certification effect at the very beginning of a funding campaign, and dynamic herding later all along the campaign. Contributions from expert backers, whether specialized in the same creative industry as a given project or not, trigger additional contributions and improve the success probability of a funding campaign. Senior experts follow other senior experts, which supports normative social influence and, when specialized, they follow other specialized senior experts, which highlights taste-based homophily. We also show that junior experts, i.e. future serial backers, follow senior experts, particularly when specialized, which supports informational social influence. Experts hence lead the crowd in their decision to contribute to cultural projects, and those who follow them are mostly senior experts themselves and apprentice experts, not one-time contributors, which suggests the existence of community logic and rational information cascades in RBCF.