Reciprocity, Homophily, and Social Network Effects in Pictorial Communication: A Case Study of Bitmoji Sticker

Julie Jiang, Ron Dotsch, Mireia Triguero Roura, Yozen Liu, Vitor Silva, Maarten Bos, Francesco Barbieri
Event CHI 2023
Research Areas Behavioral Science, Graph Machine Learning

Pictorial emojis and stickers are commonly used in online social networking to facilitate and aid communications. We delve into the use of Bitmoji stickers, a highly expressive form of pictorial communication using avatars resembling actual users. We collect a large-scale dataset of the metadata of 3 billion Bitmoji stickers shared among 300 million Snapchat users. We find that individual Bitmoji sticker usage patterns can be characterized jointly on dimensions of reciprocity and selectivity: Users are either both reciprocal and selective about whom they use Bitmoji stickers with or neither reciprocal nor selective. We additionally provide evidence of network homophily in that friends use Bitmoji stickers at similar rates. Finally, using a quasi-experimental approach, we show that receiving Bitmoji stickers from a friend encourages future Bitmoji sticker usage and overall Snapchat engagement. We discuss broader implications of our work towards a better understanding of pictorial communication behaviors in social networks.