Tag: Faculty


Corporate giants, advertising industry leaders, watchdog groups and civil rights leaders alike are sounding the alarm about proposed changes at Twitter that would loosen content moderation and charge users a monthly fee to obtain a verification check.

General Motors Co. was one of the first U.S. companies to announce that it would pause advertising on the social media site while it evaluates Twitter’s new direction. Just a few days later, on Oct. 31, IPG — one of the world’s largest advertising companies — reportedly recommended that its clients also temporarily pause spending on the social media platform.

Michael Wall, a professor of practice in marketing and entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School, said that all organizations should closely monitor the situation at Twitter to minimize risk to their brands.


“If changes to the platform occur that conflict with their values, they should then discuss the appropriate next steps,” Wall said. “A strategic question I would consider, if Twitter is an essential part of the organization’s growth strategy, is: How can we become a positive influence in the channel and become a leader in its appropriate use?” 

“Going beyond Twitter, all organizations should have a documented social media strategy in place. It should include a strong rationale for utilizing the platform and have policies in place inclusive of a response strategy exactly for scenarios such as this,” said Wall, who is also co-director of Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Social media marketing enables companies to identify and engage with potential customers in a cost-effective way. It has become an essential part of the strategic growth plans for many companies, large and small.

“Every social media channel is unique in terms of who uses it, why they use it and how they use it,” Wall said. “In my digital marketing course, we spend a lot of time working to understand this nuance because it helps us to better determine which social platforms are valuable to our organization, how they bring value and the steps that need to be taken to maximize their potential.”

For corporations for whom Twitter is an important communication channel, Wall acknowledged that it will be difficult to walk away. “That said, if changes occur that lead an organization to move away from the platform, my position is that they can still achieve their objectives in other channels,” he said.  

While social media marketing has become essential to many corporations’ strategic goals, it’s important to note that the relationship is not one sided, Wall said.

‘A strategic question I would consider, if Twitter is an essential part of the organization’s growth strategy, is: How can we become a positive influence in the channel and become a leader in its appropriate use?’ 

Michael Wall

“Although Twitter does monetize via other services, advertising is the vast majority of its revenue currently,” Wall explained. “It’s essential for them, which is why Musk is flying to New York to meet with advertisers. I expect any changes made to the platform will intend to not alienate these critical stakeholders.” 

As such, advertisers are uniquely positioned to hold Twitter accountable for its actions. And, in fact, a majority of consumers today expect companies to take a stand on issues, even if they disagree with that stance, according to research conducted by Olin’s Stuart Bunderson, the George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance.

Twitter controversy highlights broader concerns for organizations, individuals

As a professor, professional and parent, Wall said he has concerns about the risks associated not just with Twitter, but all social media platforms.

“The concerns with Twitter were present prior to Musk’s takeover, and all social media platforms come with similar threats to not just our organizations but, more importantly, the well-being of us as individuals and society more broadly,” he said.

“The focus today is on Twitter, but just last year a Facebook whistleblower confirmed many concerns about the platform, while also introducing new ones. Another example is TikTok and concerns with the way they utilize our personal data.

“Social media isn’t going away. As a result, organizations, individuals and elected officials must work together to ensure everything possible is done to stop them from causing harm,” Wall said.  

Social media is just one example of why values-based, data-driven leadership is so essential, Wall said.

“To meet the challenges of today’s tech-enabled world, we need leadership that can make balanced decisions with a steadfast commitment to personal and societal values.”  

Is Twitter doomed?

Musk’s first weeks as the new “Chief Twit” at Twitter have been marked by controversy, but it’s not too late to course correct.

“My hope is that Elon Musk will be as committed to making Twitter a safe space as he has been in all other aspects of his professional life,” Wall said. “My hope is that Twitter can allow free speech while also implementing policies and new technological capabilities to thwart the efforts of bad actors. It’s difficult, but it’s possible. I urge him to put talent in place and empower them with resources so they can create processes to ensure that happens.”

If given the opportunity, Wall would offer Musk the following advice: “I would recommend that he take the threats and challenges of the platform seriously and to not be flippant with his remarks. He has significant reach and authority. In other words, his comments are seen by many, and they are impactful. In addition to taking action, be mindful about communication.”

One of the biggest questions heading into the midterms is how the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision will influence voters. The decision was widely unpopular, with 62% of Americans disapproving of it, but will that be enough to stop a potential red wave in November?


A working paper by Olin Business School’s Raphael Thomadsen and Song Yao, along with Robert Zeithammer at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests the decision may not have meaningfully changed general attitudes about abortion as a policy issue, nor its impact on voter preference. 

However, there is one big exception to this finding: The researchers found that women and independent voters became markedly less supportive of an anti-abortion candidate who is also against any exceptions in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s health. With dozens of states already restricting abortion without exceptions and others considering similar bans, this has the potential to be a deciding factor for races in these states, said Thomadsen, a professor of marketing.


The researchers asked study participants to weigh two hypothetical Senate candidates based on each candidate’s position on key issues, including abortion, taxes, illegal immigration, climate change, health insurance and poverty. Their findings show that among women, support of anti-abortion/no exception candidates dropped 7 percentage points post-Dobbs. Independent voters’ support for anti-abortion candidates also dropped 5.3 percentage points with the decision. Only men prioritized other issues in their decision, with support for Republican candidates rising nearly 7 percentage points.

While other factors like candidate personalities will affect actual races, the findings suggest Republicans would be better off avoiding hardline stances, while Democrats would benefit from amplifying this weakness in campaign messages, said Yao, an associate professor of marketing. 

Thomadsen predicted that, given the closeness of the election polls now, control for the Senate depends on how much Democrats emphasize the issue of exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s health in the last few weeks of the campaign. So far, those ads have been relegated to the back burner of most key elections. Read the full working paper on the SSRN website.

Media contact: Neil Schoenherr

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated vast inequalities in the U.S. Lower-income families experienced greater health risks, more job loss and economic insecurity, and greater declines in psychological well-being—the effects of which will be felt for years to come.

For many Americans, the pandemic represented the first time they had been confronted with these stark inequalities. Indeed, for the first time, many were stripped of their own individual choice and sense of control. New research from Olin Business School suggests that this experience may have led some to better understand the structural sources of inequality and, in turn, support efforts to create a more equal society.


“In the U.S., people tend to think about wealth and inequality as a result of individual differences such as merit or hard work. We were interested in uncovering whether gaining firsthand experience with an external and uncontrollable factor—the COVID-19 pandemic—could shift Americans’ attitudes. We wanted to know: Would people see inequality as more due to structural factors?” said Hannah J. Birnbaum, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin.

In the study “Personal harm from the COVID-19 pandemic predicts advocacy for equality,” forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Birnbaum and colleagues found evidence that individuals who experienced personal harm—either by contracting COVID-19, losing a job or experiencing psychological distress—were more likely to support and advocate for equality up to a full year after the experience.

Birnbaum’s coauthors include Rebecca M. Carey of Princeton University; Andrea G. Dittmann of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School; Hazel Rose Markus and Ellen C. Reinhart of Stanford University; and Nicole M. Stephens of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

New, firsthand experience key to change

The findings were collected from a three-wave longitudinal survey beginning in May 2020. Follow-up surveys were administered in October 2020 and May 2021. The three surveys were part of a larger study of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic over time. Nearly 700 U.S. adults completed all three surveys.

‘Our research suggests that perhaps the same people who were touched by the sometimes devastating effects of the pandemic will also be the ones who will advocate for greater equality in the United States.’

Hannah J. Birnbaum

The findings showed that those who had been personally harmed at the start of the pandemic were more likely to appreciate how structural factors outside of individuals’ control—i.e., bad luck and discrimination—contribute to inequality. This more structural understanding of inequality also led these individuals to be more likely to advocate for equality one year later. For example, they were more likely to support redistribution policies such as universal health care as well as to engage in behaviors such as contacting a public official to express support for reducing inequality.

Merely observing the pandemic from afar did not have the same impact. In the study, nearly 30% of respondents at the start of the pandemic did not report any type of personal harm. One year later, they also did not report an increase in advocacy for equality.  

“This discovery was important because it explains why other large-scale negative events—like natural disasters—may not influence people’s attitudes or produce broad cultural change if they feel personally unaffected by them,” Birnbaum said.

Birnbaum and her colleagues said the results help reconcile previous disparate findings on whether those who experience adversity will be more or less likely to advocate for greater equality.

“On the one hand, previous research suggests that lower-power groups should be more likely to advocate for inequality than higher-power groups because they are exposed to more chronic harm and therefore are especially likely to endorse external attributions,” the authors write. “On the other hand, previous research has also found that lower- (vs. higher-) power groups are often motivated to justify and maintain the current system (e.g., to reduce uncertainty and threat), rather than advocating for greater equality.”

“Our research shows that when people experienced a new physical, economic or social harm brought on by the pandemic firsthand, they no longer tried to justify the experience as fair and legitimate,” Birnbaum said. “Unlike longterm situations like poverty or discrimination, it was harder for people to blame harm caused by the pandemic on personal choices.”

The research also shows that personal harm affects people’s attitudes and behavior long after the initial experience. This means that the experiences of harm during the pandemic may have long-lasting impacts on people’s attitudes toward inequality.

“Just like the Great Depression defined our grandparents’ generation, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on ours,” Birnbaum said.

“For those who hope to increase equality in the United States, our research suggests there may be a possible silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research suggests that perhaps the same people who were touched by the sometimes devastating effects of the pandemic will also be the ones who will advocate for greater equality in the United States.”

Outside a TD Ameritrade office

A new study finds wide disparities in the prices investors pay when buying and selling stocks through six popular brokerages. 

TD Ameritrade delivered the best prices, and Fidelity Investments, E*Trade and Robinhood Markets Inc. followed. Two trading platforms from Interactive Brokers Group Inc. came in at the bottom.

The experiment “reveals an astonishing dispersion in the quality of price execution across our sample of six brokerage accounts,” the authors write. They found the costs incurred in a transaction ranged from -0.07 to -0.46%, excluding any commissions. The average price improvement varied from 3 to 8 cents a share, which may not sound like much until you consider how many millions of trades people make daily.

14 million trades a day

The five brokers’ daily trading volume is 14 million daily trades, or 3.6 billion a year. The average retail trade of $8,000 translates into $28 trillion traded annually. So, for every one basis point of price execution difference, the annual cost to retail traders is $2.8 billion, according to the research.

“In that context, our observed execution differences are economically very large,” the authors say in their working paper, “The ‘Actual Retail Price’ of Equity Trades.”

“While we were aware that such trading would not be ‘free,’ we were surprised by the range of execution prices for our simultaneous identical trades.”


The researchers, including Olin Assistant Professor of Finance Xing Huang, bought and sold stocks 85,000 times over nearly six months. At the peak, their trades numbered more than 1,000 a day. They tried to place the same trades simultaneously with different brokers and measured the prices they got.

“Consumers should realize that zero commission doesn’t mean free trading, and the transaction costs could vary across brokers,” Huang said.

“Although we show that the differences are economically large on the aggregate level, the differences may be small on the individual level. While some consumers may be more concerned about other features of brokers, consumers who care about execution prices may be interested in our results.”

Different prices for the same trades

According to the research results, the price dispersion is because off-exchange wholesalers give different execution prices to brokers for the same trades.

“The difference in execution costs between these different brokers is huge, and nobody knows it,” Schwarz said.

Said Huang, “We were quite surprised by off-exchange wholesalers systematically give different execution prices to different brokers, even for the same trades.”

The findings indicate that the current disclosure regime is inadequate and provides limited information regarding the quality of price across brokers. “In practice,” the authors write, “it is very hard to compare the actual retail price execution quality of different brokers.”

The researchers spent their own money on the experiment, and they lost about $23,000 doing the trades, lead author Christopher Schwarz, of the University of California at Irvine, told The Wall Street Journal in a September 16 article.

Their impression was that they couldn’t use their research accounts since the experiment involved trading and uncertain outcomes, Huang said. “We did not want to get any funding from institutions because we didn’t want any potential conflicts of interest compromise our independent opinion.”

Stephen Ryan, left, and Michael Wall

Olin kudos to WashU Olin professors Stephen Ryan and Michael Wall, named recently to the Poets & Quants 2022 list of favorite MBA instructors—featuring words from their nominators such as “boldness,” “purpose-driven” and “effective.”

The feature, published in late September, gave the floor to a host of MBA students from around the country who shared their experiences with favorite professors as they were embarking on and continuing through their two-year programs.

Austin René Moulder, MBA 2022, sang praises for Wall (top right), professor of practice in marketing and entrepreneurship and codirector for the Center for Analytics and Business Insights. “He never strayed away from difficult conversations around ethics, purpose and inclusion in marketing. Despite me entering the program with a disdain for the marketing space, his transparency and boldness around leveraging marketing for social good transformed my interest to the point where I am now officially platforming in product management marketing. His keen sense of purpose-driven professorship should serve as a lesson to us all about how to positively influence others through strong values and determination.”

Riley Hawkins, MBA 2022, also had kind words for Ryan, interim director of Doctoral programs and Myron Northrop Professor of Economics. She cited her favorite class, Competitive Industry Analysis, which Ryan taught. “Before Professor Ryan’s class, economic theory was just diagonal lines on graphs. Thankfully, Professor Ryan ties all economic theory and concepts he teaches in class to tangible, real-life scenarios and cases that tremendously helped my understanding of the material.

“I deeply appreciate the extra care to ensure students commit what he teaches to memory. Finally, Professor Ryan is unapologetically himself, making him exceedingly likable. He comes to class every day ready to crack jokes, cold call by pointing directly at students, proceed to gently poke fun at anyone who isn’t prepared and start discussions that often lead to even more interesting, in-depth tangents.”