پرورش حس تعلق و انگیزه مشارکت کاربر در جوامع مجازی : چشم انداز سرمایه اجتماعی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|4326||2012||15 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Information Management, Volume 32, Issue 6, December 2012, Pages 574–588
Virtual communities (VCs) are attracting more attention as they provide a platform for people to share experiences and knowledge, which may further impact their purchase decisions. From a social capital perspective, this study investigated factors that cultivate a VC member's sense of belonging and their effects on facilitating his participation in the VC in terms of the intentions to get and share experiences and knowledge. The results indicated that three factors that relate to three dimensions of social capital in the VC – familiarity with members in the VC from the structural dimension, perceived similarity with other members from the cognitive dimension, and trust in other members from the relational dimension – are all positively related to the sense of belonging, which affects intentions to get and share knowledge and mediates the relationships between social capital factors and a VC member's intentions to participate.
“Make no mistake. Virtual communities will fundamentally change how companies develop, price, and promote their products.” John Hagel and Arthur Armstrong, The McKinsey Quarterly, 1997 Defined as “computer-mediated spaces where there is a potential for an integration of content and communication with an emphasis on member-generated content” (Hagel & Armstrong, 1997), virtual communities (VCs) grew quickly in recent years. Among these VCs, commercially oriented VC, where people gather together mainly to share commercial information, such as their experiences or knowledge about specific products/services, is a typical kind of VCs. Such commercially oriented VCs establish relationships among online strangers and provide important complementary information sources of products and services. Though similar with most other VCs, commercially oriented VCs are characterized by weak ties and geographical dispersion, the interactions in such VCs have posed significant impacts on businesses. For instance, in China, commercially oriented VCs are widely used by major C2C providers to convert VC members to C2C customers (Lu, Zhao, & Wang, 2010), as the C2C market in China is a social marketplace where social relation management service is a more effective way to build customers’ loyalty to the vendor than transaction service (Chen, Zhang, Yuan, & Huang, 2007). Moreover, due to the imperfect supervision on counterfeit products sold on C2C platform in China, information from these VCs become important references for customers to recognize fake products and undesirable businessman online (iResearch, 2007). Thus, the success and prosperity of commercially oriented VCs would be vital to the vendors who rely on VCs to promote online transactions. It is, therefore, important to understand why VC members are hanging out in VCs and are willing to share or get information from such communities. Researchers always want to figure out what factors attract people to the VCs (Zhou, Jin, Vogel, Fang, & Chen, 2011). The stickiness of a VC, which can be reflected by its members’ sense of belonging and participation, is a vital factor for its success or survival. Sense of belonging, which is also called having an attachment, a sense of identification, and a sense of membership (Hagborg, 1998), describes an emotional attachment of a user to a VC. Establishing and maintaining relatedness to others is a basic need of human, and the nature and quality of such interpersonal relatedness would influence people's physical and mental health (Cohen and Wills, 1985 and Kohut, 1977). Sense of belonging is considered as one specific process of relatedness and an important factor for mental health and social well-being (Hagerty, Lynch-Sauer, Patusky, Bouwsema, & Collier, 1992). Under the online environment, sense of belonging is also a vital component of online “community” (Roberts, 1998). That is, without such emotional attachment, any online discussion group and chat room would just be a means of communication among people with common interests, but not communities (Bromberg, 1996). Sense of belonging in VCs will lead to positive outcomes. For instance, sense of belonging is found to facilitates online sustained participation in virtual learning communities (Teo, Chan, Wei, & Zhang, 2003) and contribute to members’ loyalty to VCs (Lin, 2008). Though these few studies show the importance of the sense of belonging in VC success, there are still questions related to this concept requiring more investigation. For example, the above two studies indicated that sense of belonging positively affected general participation of VC members. But to be more exact, how would sense of belonging affect members’ specific participation behaviors, such as getting knowledge, or sharing knowledge? Meanwhile, the study of Teo et al. (2003) focused on a virtual learning community whose members were the students from the same course, probably with strong ties, while the study of Lin (2008) did not refer to any specific VCs. Thus, what role does sense of belonging play in a commercially oriented VCs, whose participators are usually offline strangers with weak ties but common goals? Finally, given the importance of sense of belonging, more investigation on how to cultivate such emotional attachment should be conducted. Participation in a VC usually refers to behaviors of sharing with and getting information, experiences, opinions, or knowledge from other users in the VC. Prior research has shown the importance of this kind of participation activities on the subsistence of a VC (e.g., Koh & Kim, 2004). As user-generated content is fundamental to VCs, abundant studies have highlighted the importance of knowledge sharing in variant kinds of VCs, and examined the factors that facilitated such knowledge sharing behavior (Chiu et al., 2006, Hsu et al., 2007 and Wasko and Faraj, 2005). The sale of information gathered from online experiences generated by VC members is also considered as a promising business model for monetizing Internet applications and web sites (Clemons, 2009). As to getting information, we argue that it should be also regarded as an important part of commercially oriented VC members’ participation for several reasons. First, it will increase the traffic for the website if the members consider the VC as a reliable and useful source of consumption information. VC providers could profit from advertising which is based on website traffic. Second, as more and more people make use of consumption information on VC sites before making a purchase decision (iResearch, 2007), VC providers could also benefit from cooperation with merchants who want to conduct word-of-mouth marketing online. Studies have found that online reviews of books, movies, and craft beer could affect product sales (Clemons et al., 2006 and Duan et al., 2008). Third, VC providers could make profits by converting the VC visitors to consumers. As Shan, Sutanto, Kankanhalli, and Tan (2006) suggested, visitors of VC could be converted to consumers by satisfying the needs during different stage of membership. That is, when more people get information from VCs, there would be greater potential to convert these visitors to online consumers. Lu et al. (2010) also found that the intention to get information from a VC significantly influences a member’ intention to make a purchase on the C2C website hosting the VC. In sum, members’ participation plays an important role in VC success and how to facilitate such participation is also a concern to VC providers. Thus, we examine not only the intention to share information, but also the intention to get information from VCs. In other words, this study concerns “why VC members make recommendations to and take recommendation from others”. Given the importance of both the sense of belonging and participation in VC success, our research reported here attempts to answer the following two research questions. First, what factors would cultivate the sense of belonging of VC members to a VC. Second, what factors would encourage their participation in the VC in terms of getting and sharing information, experiences, and/or knowledge? In this study, we investigate these issues from a social capital perspective, which focuses on the resources rooted in the relationships among people, how these resources formed, and what outcomes they could bring about. There are several areas of significance in this study. First, we include the sense of belonging in our research model as a perception of emotional attachment to the VC and examine how the sense of belonging is affected by social capital. From one side, we linked these two concepts because social capital theory provides different perspectives (e.g., structure of network, social norm) to understand interactions among people, and sense of belonging is developed through such interaction (Rovai, 2002). From the other side, as mentioned, VCs used as an effective way to build customers’ loyalty in the C2C market in China (Chen et al., 2007). This is because relationship is an important concept in the Chinese culture, and Chinese people will use different rules to treat other people based on the degrees of social relations among them. VCs build social relations among strangers and then facilitate trust and deeper intimacy among these connected people (Chen et al., 2007). Thus, as Roberts (1998) pointed out, it took time for VC members to feel belonged to the community. For understanding the quality of social relations varying across the network structure and degree of interaction, Social Capital Theory provides a properly theoretical foundation. To our best knowledge, we have found few prior studies investigating this factor in this way, and our study will provide a better understanding of its impact on VC success. Second, we consider two aspects of participation in VC: getting and sharing experiences and knowledge. Most previous research only investigates how to facilitate the sharing behavior and ignores the issue related to the getting information behavior (Chiu et al., 2006 and Wasko and Faraj, 2005). We believe that getting information from VCs is also important for their success, especially for those VCs that provide purchase information that could promote the actual purchase behavior and bring profits to VC service providers. The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. Section 2 reviews the related literature on social capital theory and related concepts. Section 3 presents our research model and hypotheses. Research method is described in Section 4. Section 5 reports data analysis. Section 6 discusses the findings and the last section concludes the study with limitations and implications for theory and practice.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
7.1. Limitations There are several limitations in this study. First, the small variances explained indicate that there might be other factors affecting the dependent variables in the research model. Possible factors include the management of the VC, information quality, stability of the website, and members’ need fulfillment. Second, the type of VC we surveyed in this study was a VC for exchanging purchase knowledge and experiences. The results might be different for other types of VCs, such as transaction VCs (e.g., Taskcn (http://witkey.taskcn.com), which is a Witkey website where companies and individuals can solicit solutions or answers to their posted questions and give rewards to providers of the winning solutions or answers) or relationship VCs (e.g., Hepatitis B Carriers BBS (http://bbs.hbvhbv.com), which is a BBS forum aimed at providing a communication platform for Hepatitis B carriers and eliminating discrimination against this group). Future research therefore can investigate the differences among different types of VCs. Third, the respondents in our study were students in a university in China. This sample represented the majority of Taobao users in China, who are young adults between 18 and 25 years old (iResearch, 2009) and a majority of Taobao sellers (Taobao, 2010). However, bias could also be caused by the student sample used. Moreover, the behavior of young adults would be different from those much older ones. Thus, researchers should use caution when generalizing our results to other populations. Future research can use other samples to verify our results. 7.2. Implications Our research has the following theoretical contributions and practical implications. On the theoretical side, first, we used a social capital perspective to explain the emotional involvement and participation of users in a VC. Different from previous research which also used this perspective to investigate knowledge sharing in VCs (Chiu et al., 2006, Kankanhalli et al., 2005 and Wasko and Faraj, 2005), we studied the relationships among different dimensions of social capital. We find that the structural dimension plays a fundamental role in social capital at it influences cognitive and relational dimensions. We also confirm the findings in Tsai and Ghoshal (1998) that cognitive dimensions of social capital significantly affect the relational dimension. However, Tsai and Ghosha did not consider the sense of belonging in their research, and they did not further discuss the important role of the relational dimension among the social capital factors. Compared to prior research on the relationships among social capital dimensions, our study adds useful knowledge to the understanding of social capital in VCs. Second, our study is believed to be one of the very few research studies, if any, that include the sense of belonging in a social capital framework and investigated the factors that affect this emotional attachment to the VCs. Though sense of belonging was considered to be an important issue for VC success, the empirical research on how to cultivate this sense of belonging is scarce. Previous study found that the sense of belonging is an important factor in a learning VC (Teo et al., 2003). We extended this line of research and investigated factors with a social capital perspective that would facilitate VC users’ sense of belonging in a commercially oriented VC that is used to share purchase knowledge or experiences. Moreover, we investigated the relationships between the sense of belonging and VC users’ intentions to share and get experiences/knowledge and found that sense of belonging has strong effects on a user's intentions to get and share experiences/knowledge. Our research also has several practical implications. As our study investigated the VC attached to a C2C platform, the results would provide practical implications for C2C providers who want to improve social relation management service through VCs. As the C2C platform provides consumers with many alternatives, thus the general goal of C2C consumers is to decide which one to buy from these product alternatives. Compared with one-time shoppers, loyal consumer tends to spend more money buying products or services. However, both of them have to make the final purchase decision based on the information they could collect. VCs provide such a platform for consumers to get/share information. Given the “less sophisticated enforcement of contracts and imperfect markets for information” in mainland China (Chen et al., 2007, p. 90), VCs not only become an information source for consumers, but also provide a effective mechanism through which for C2C providers to maintain members and convert them to consumers. First, the sense of belonging is the most significant factor that has a positive influence on members’ participation, and it mediates the effects of social capital factors on members’ participating intentions. These suggest that the emotional attachment to a VC is an important factor in converting inactive members to active ones. Thus, VC providers should focus on cultivating members’ sense of belonging when promoting more active participation on VCs. Our results also show that the effect of the sense of belonging on the intention to share knowledge is stronger than that on the intention to get knowledge. This further points out the importance of the sense of belonging to the success of a VC, as without active members sharing their knowledge, other members will have nothing to learn from. Second, as to how to cultivate members’ sense of belonging to the VC, our study also provides some solutions. Familiarity, perceived similarity, and trust in other members are positively related to the sense of belonging, indicating that social capital in a VC plays an important role in cultivating VC users’ emotional attachment to the VC. Hence, VC providers could organize activities for members to get familiar with each other, which would facilitate the development of a stronger sense of belonging to the VC. For example, VC providers could host face-to-face meetings or reward members who share their experiences in a more appealing way, such as showing photos of themselves, to enhance the interactions among the members, which will lead to higher familiarity. Trust among members will also be strengthened when there is more personal exposure to each other. Perceived similarity is not only positively related to the sense of belonging but also has the strongest effect on the intention to get purchase experiences/knowledge among all the social capital factors. Thus, VC providers should be mindful of how to strengthen the perception of similarities among members, which would foster a stronger sense of belonging and encourage more members to get experiences/knowledge from the VC. One suggestion for VC provides is to make the discussion forums or topics in VCs more focused so that VC users with the same interests can easily find each other. This includes setting up a clear navigational structure so that the relevant forums or boards can be easily located by a VC user. Among the three social capital factors, trust partially mediates the relationships between the sense of belonging and the other two social capital factors, which implies that, in such a virtual environment, trust should be regarded as the premise of members’ emotional attachment. In addition to enhancing familiarity and perceived similarity among members, VC providers can also follow suggestions by previous research to build trust among members. For example, creating a just environment through fair policies and procedures, enhancing responsiveness and disclosure of personal information from other members, providing quality content, fostering member embeddedness, and encouraging interactions would build trust among VC members.