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Investigating the process from needs to connect to active participation in online communities

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Investigating the Process from Needs to Connect to
  Active Participation in Online Communities:
Focusing on the Roles of ...
Table of Contents

Introduction                                            3


Research Background and Hypotheses Developm...
Introduction


      People are gathering in online communities to fulfill their desires to interact with or
help others. ...
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Investigating the process from needs to connect to active participation in online communities

  1. 1. Investigating the Process from Needs to Connect to Active Participation in Online Communities: Focusing on the Roles of Social Identity and High Quality Connection Advanced Industrial Psychology By Eun Hee Ko 1
  2. 2. Table of Contents Introduction 3 Research Background and Hypotheses Development 4 The Motives for Participation in Online Communities Quality of Connections Social Identity Research Methodology 10 Data Collection and Analysis Measures Implications 12 References 13 2
  3. 3. Introduction People are gathering in online communities to fulfill their desires to interact with or help others. With this new phenomenon, marketers have become more and more interested in learning about, organizing, and managing online communities on their internet venues (Bagozzi & Dholakia, 2002), viewing online communities as consumer groups of varying sizes that meet and interact online for the sake of achieving personal as well as shared goals of their members (Dholakia, Bagozzi, & Pearo, 2004). Researchers have examined various themes with regards to online communities (virtual communities) or brand communities on a basis of diverse theories such as social network theory, life cycle models, or motivational theories. For example, Muniz and O Guinn (2001) investigated the characteristics, processes, and particularities of three online brand communities - Ford Bronco, Macintosh, and Saab – and found traditional markers of communities: shared consciousness, rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility. Szmigin, Canning, and Reppel (2005) studied about how online communities enhance the relationship within internet communities, developed a conceptual framework that enables greater understanding of the contributions of service delivery and online communities in the development of bonds in interactive relationships, and found three key elements of the framework: service value, technical infrastructure and interactivity. All in all, the purpose of this paper is to present a framework for understanding participating behaviors in online communities. There are a lot of lurkers in online or online communities, whereas there are also participants or activists there. So, here is the key question of this paper; what makes people participate or behave in online communities? Especially, this study is interested in whether or not the quality of connections between organizations (online communities here) and people and the ones among people in the organizations play an important role in making the people active participants. This paper also focuses on the issue about how social identity operates in the process from the needs to participation to behaviors of active participation in online communities. There are a number of studies regarding participating behaviors in online communities, for instance, “Antecedents and purchase consequences of customer participation in small group brand communities” by Bagozzi and Dholakis (2006), but little attention has been paid to the mechanism of how participants become active members of online communities or of 3
  4. 4. how the participants become to have commitment or loyalty to the communities. This paper proposes that high quality connection among members within online communities is an important factor in increasing the participations of members in online communities. It also proposes that a participant’s social identity strengthened by high quality connection is another important factor in making the participants active community members in online community. High quality connection is normally studied in general relationship contexts among people or organizational contexts. For example, using broad definition of connection quality, including emotional affect, reciprocity, mutuality, interdependence, and mutual motivation to be responsive, Higgins and Kram (2001) developed a framework illustrating factors that shape developmental network structures and offer propositions focusing on the developmental consequences for individuals having different types of developmental networks in their careers. In a more business context, Naude and Buttle (2000) examined high quality dimensions in business-to-business relationship and found five underlying dimensions: trust, needs fulfillment, supply chain integration, power, and profit. This paper hypothesizes that the high quality connection affecting relationship among people or some subjects in off-line spaces also has influence on relationships in on-line spaces. It also examines the concept of social identity in the online community context, which was introduced by Tajfel (1971) and refers to “the individual’s knowledge that he belongs to certain social groups together with some emotional and value significance to him of this group membership”. Regarding the concept of social identity, this article is interested in the tie between social identity and participation behaviors in online communities. This article first examines the previous researches with regards to the antecedents of being participants of online communities, high quality connection, and social identity. Then, theoretical framework is developed concerning the process from the needs to participation in online community to active participating behaviors. Finally, methodology will be discussed in this research proposal. Research Background and Hypotheses Development The motives for participation in online communities 4
  5. 5. Many scholars have investigated the motives for participation in the online communities in diverse fields, such as psychology, marketing, communications, or human computer studies. Some of them have suggested hierarchical needs theory (Maslow, 1943) as an appropriate method of understanding and supporting users of online communities. For example, Grosso (2001) asserted that the hierarchical needs theory can be useful in explaining that individuals may fulfill some of their needs in online communities. Dholakia, Bagozzi, and Pearo (2004) stated that people participate in online communities broadly for two motives, individual motives and the motives driven by social influences. In their model, the authors hypothesized and proved that such antecedents as purposive value, self-discovery, maintaining interpersonal interconnectivity, social enhancement, and entertainment value give people the motivations to gather in virtual communities. Bishop (2006) proposed a conceptual framework regarding what drives individuals regularly participate to online communities and act there. They developed the framework in three levels describing what drives such individuals to carry out actions such as posting messages and adding content (level 1), the cognitions they use to determine whether or not to take such actions (level 2) and the means to by which they go about carrying out the action in the environment (level 3). On the other hands, rather than seeing online communities as independent types of communities, Koh et al. (2007) viewed online gatherings through communities as extensions of offline engagements and examined leaders’ involvement, level of offline interactions, and usefulness drive affect the level of virtual community. Indeed, Sangwan (2005) suggested more comprehensive constructs of participation motives of online communities. Investigating previous research with regards to virtual community usage, Sangwan (2005) drove three constructs of the usage, which are functional needs fulfillment of required uses by quality of content, emotive needs fulfillment and acceptance of relationship building through interaction and communication in virtual environment, and contextual needs that relate to individual user specific expectations and experiences beyond and other than functional and emotive needs. As described above, people connect to online and get in with certain motives. As a result, I expect that: H1a: Functional needs motivate people to participate in online communities. H1b: Emotive needs motivate people to participate in online communities. 5
  6. 6. H1c: Contextual needs motivate people to participate in online communities. Quality of Connections Network theory has a long academic tradition in sociology or organizational studies. Pioneer of social networks in the late 1800s include Emile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tonnies. Durkheim (1897), in his study regarding suicide and religion, gave a non-individualistic explanation of social facts, arguing that social phenomena arise when interacting individuals constitute a reality that can no longer be accounted for in terms of the properties of individual actors. Specifically, Durkheim (1897) explored the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics, explaining that stronger social control among Catholics results in lower suicide rates. His studies were the first ones which investigated certain phenomena, which had been previously considered as individual ones, from non-individualistic perspectives, and had influenced on many related studies such as network theories or relationship studies. As related study, there is a study about ties. Mark Granovetter (1973) examined weak ties, saying that more numerous weak times can be important in seeking information and innovation. Specifically, he argued that weak times enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties. This was probably the first study which examined the degree of strength of ties or connections among people. The study regarding quality of connections has been rather recently studied by scholars. Such themes as influences and characteristics of high or low quality connection have been heavily studied especially in organizational context. Although there is no universal definition about connection quality and the concept needs more work, several definitions have been referred to in organizational or network studies. For example, Granovetter (1973) defined connection strength in sense of the emotional weight of the attachment or by emotional weight coupled with reciprocity and frequency of communication, and Higgin and Kram (2001) employed the concept in terms of emotional affect, reciprocity, mutuality, interdependence, and mutual motivation to be responsive. This article adopts the definition used by Dutton and Heaphy (2003). The authors defined the quality of connection in terms of whether the connection is life-giving or life- depleting, and explained the features of the actual connection of between two people and the subjective and physiological experiences of high-quality connection. Especially, their 6
  7. 7. investigations regarding subjective experience of high-quality connection are adopted as elements which positively affect participants of online communities. This article hypothesizes that subjective experience of individuals in high quality connection in online communities positively influence on being active participants. According to Dutton and Heaphy (2003), people in high quality connections share three subjective experiences: feelings of vitality and aliveness, positive regard, and mutuality. One of the purposes of this article investigates what roles the subjective experiences of high quality connection in off-line spaces play in on-line spaces. Therefore, the three hypotheses with regards to the mediators between participating behaviors and high quality connection and high quality connection are as follows: H2a: Feelings of vitality mediate positive influence on formatting high quality connections among members in online communities H2b: Positive regard has positive influence on formatting high quality connections among members in online communities. H2c: Mutuality has positive influence on formatting high quality connections among members in online communities. H3: High quality connection leads to higher level of participation behaviors in online communities and vice versa. Social Identity Tajfel (1971) first developed the concept of social identity, which refers to “the individual’s knowledge that he belongs to certain social groups together with some emotional and value significance to him of this group membership”: how a system of social categorizations “creates and defines an individual’s own place in society”. Turner el al. (1992) broadened social identity theory by developing the self categorization theory, which specified how social categorization creates prototype-based depersonalization of self and other and, thus produces social identity phenomena. Dholakia, Bagozzi, and Pearo (2004) investigated the concept of social identity in a marketing context. According to them, social identity captures the main aspects of individual’s identification with the group in the sense that the person comes to view himself or herself as a member of the community, as “belonging” to it. Adopting the concept of social 7
  8. 8. identity involving cognitive, affective, and evaluative components (e.g., Bergami & Bagozzi, 2000; Ellemers et al., 1999), Dholakia and the colleagues (2004) examined how social identity works in online spaces such as virtual communities. Specifically, they studied the relationship between the levels of value perception s and the strength of social identity concerning the virtual communities and the relationship between the strength of social identity and the levels of we-intentions to participate in the virtual community. Bagozzi and Dholakia (2006) studied the antecedents and purchase consequences of customer participation in small group brand communities and proposed the model incorporating social intentions, three aspects of social identity (cognitive self-awareness of membership in the brand community, affective commitment, and evaluative significance of membership), anticipated positive and negative emotions toward achieving of failing to achieve group participation goals, and desire as a transformative mechanism translating reasons for acting into social intentions to do so. Like the studies above, this study also has the purpose to examine the role of social identity in online spaces. Specifically, this study is concerned about whether or not social identity is formed in online communities through participation behaviors, whether or not the social identity can be strengthened by high quality connection among people or between the organizations (online communities) and their members within online communities, and whether or not the strengthened social identity has positive influence on the degree of participation in online communities. Accordingly, following hypotheses have been generated: H4: People within online communities will have social identity through participation in online communities. H5: Social identity formed in online communities is strengthened by high quality connections. H6: Strengthened social identity leads to higher level of participation behaviors in online communities and vice versa. 8
  9. 9. Figure 1. A Framework of the Process from Connecting Needs to Active Participating Behavior Feelings of + vitality High quality connections Functional need + Positive regard + + + Active Mutual Participation + Participation commitment Behavior Emotive need Behavior + + + Social Social identity identity Contextual need formation + Strengthened Connect to online Participate online Actively Participate to online community community community Activity flow in online communities 9
  10. 10. Methodology Data Collection and Analysis Survey will be conducted for this study via online questionnaire. Respondents will be randomly selected in several major online communities in South Korea. Each respondent will receive email with a link to the online questionnaire attached. The email with completed survey will be taken back to an investigator. The structural equation modeling (figure 1) will be run using LISREL program. Measures Antecedents of connection to online communities To measure the motivations of why individuals connect to online communities, the measurement developed by Sangwan (2005) is utilized. There are three constructs in this measurement, which are functional needs, emotive needs, and contextual needs. First functional needs mainly measure 1) information need, including ‘objective information’, ‘information of high value’, ‘information for my exact needs’, ‘expert information’, ‘information from opinion leaders’, and ‘trust information for investments’. Second, emotive needs consist of three subordinate ones: 1) social interaction, 2) personal uses, and 3) self expression uses. Social interaction includes ‘visit threads’, ‘enjoy discussion and participations’, ‘enjoy virtual companionship’, ‘interaction with people’, and ‘large number of membership’. Personal uses contain such items as ‘meet peer group’, ‘easy to find people in a community’, and ‘meet industry leaders and influential people’. Last subordinate element of emotive needs, self expression uses, includes ‘express my knowledge’, ‘reader and a contributor’, and ‘moderation of content’. The last construct of the measurement is contextual needs consisting of 1) entertainment and 2) host. Entertainment contains such items as ‘chat groups’ and ‘the site surfing and navigation’. Host includes ‘rules and regulations’ and ‘postings from CEO’. Mediators of Participation Behaviors and High Quality Connections 10
  11. 11. 1) Feeling of Vitality The scale of feeling of vitality is adopted from the study by Ryan and Frederick (1997). The scale consists of two factors. The first factor contains seven energy-related items and the second factor consists of six items related to having interests, goals, and purposes. 2) Positive Regard Proper scale concerning positive regard cannot be found from previous literature for this study. In the future, the scale will be developed from near concepts such as a feeling of being known or being loved, and attachment. 3) Mutual Commitment In this article, mutual commitment is defined as an individual’s perception of the degree of commitment that exists in his/her relationship with the organization and the one that exists among people. The scales measuring perceived organizational support, which refers to organization’s commitment to individuals, are adopted from the study of Kessler and Purcell (2004), consist of nine items capturing individual’s perception of his/her organization’s commitment to them. The scales of organizational commitment measuring organizational commitment, which refers to individual’s commitment to the organization, are also adopted from Kessler and Purcell (2004)’s study. This scale consists of seven items. It is highly possible that the items in these scales will be adjusted in the future. In addition, the proper scale for mutual commitment among people in online context cannot be found from previous researches so that the scale will be developed in the future. Quality of Connections The scales measuring the quality of connections in general relationships among people cannot be found from previous studies. Relatively, there are several scales measuring the relationships between customers and service providers or between customers and firms in marketing context. One scale measuring the relationship quality between customers and firms is expected to be used for this study after being adjusted properly in online community context. The scale, which was developed by Roberts, Varki, and Brodie (2003), measure the quality of relationship between customers and firms in five dimensions: trust in integrity, trust 11
  12. 12. in benevolence, commitment, affective conflict, and satisfaction. Social Identity The measurement of social identity is adopted from the study by Dholakia, Bagozzi, and Pearo (2004). The measurement consists of three kinds of social identity, which are cognitive social identity, affective social identity, and evaluative social identity; each of them includes two measurement items. Specifically, cognitive social identity items ask what degree your self0image overlaps with the identity of the group of friends as you perceive it and how you would express the degree of overlap between your personal identity and the identity of the group you mentioned above when you are actually part of the group and engaging in group activities. Affective social identity items ask how you are attached to the group you mentioned above and how strong you would say your feelings of belongingness are toward the group you mentioned above. Evaluative social identity items ask how much you think you are valuable member of the group and how much you think you are important member of the group. Each item will be measured on a basis of seven-point “agree-disagree” scale. Implications The results of this research will have several theoretical and practical implications in positive organizational scholarship and online marketing. First, this article suggests that high quality connection and social identity, which have been mainly studied about off-line spaces, can be applied to on-line spaces. For example, authentic leadership, which is one of important issues in positive organizational scholarship, can be a very interesting topic in virtual community study. Extending the results found in this article to online world, this study will suggest a number of new research themes regarding positive organizational scholarship and online spaces. Second, scholars in marketing field have paid little attention to positive scholarship, and there are very limited studies regarding it. In fact, such concepts as quality of connections and social identity are very new to marketing scholars. Yet, as this study shows, positive scholarship gives a number of research themes to marketing scholars. Indeed, this article provides marketing scholars with another insightful study field. Finally, this research provides marketing practitioners with important insights with regard to online communities and positive organizational scholarship. Today, online communities are more essential 12
  13. 13. marketing tools than ever. Consumers are flourishing there, and swift practitioners already use them as critical marketing tools. Therefore, deeper understandings conducted in this study will give a lot of implications to marketers. For instance, through encouraging high quality connections among members or between web sites and members within online communities and developing diverse marketing strategies with in-depth understanding of them, marketers can have numerous benefits. References Bagozzi, R. P., & Dholakia, U. M. (2002). International social action in virtual communities. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 16(2), 2-21. Bagozzi, R. P., & Dholakia, U. M (2006). Antecedents and purchase consequences of customer participation in small group brand communities. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 23, 45-61. Bergami, M., & Bagozzi, R. P. (2000). Self-categorization, affective commitment, and group self-esteem as distinct aspects of social identity in an organization. British Journal of Social Psychology, 39(4), 555-577. Bishop, J. (2006). Increasing participation in online communities: A framework for human- computer interaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 1881-1893. Dholakia, U. M., Bagozzi, R. P., & Pearo, L. K. (2004). A social influence model of consumer participation in network- and small-group-based virtual communities. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 21, 241-263. Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 263-278). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler. 13
  14. 14. Ellemers, N., Kortekaas, P., & Ouwerkerk, J. W. (1999). Self-categorization, commitment to the group, and group self-esteem as related but distinct aspects of social identity. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 371-389. Grosso, M. D. (2001). Design and implementation of online communities. Unpublished thesis. Available from http:// www.moviesinstitute.org/darken/alumni/DelGrosso/delgrosso.pdf. Higgins, M., & Kram, K. (2001). Reconceptualization mentoring at work: a developmental network perspective. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 264-288. Kessler, I., & Purcell, J., (2004). Exploring organizationally directed citizenship behavior: reciprocity or “it’s my job”? Journal of Management Studies, 41(1), 85-106. Koh, J., Kim, Y. G., Butler, B., & Bock, G. W. (2007). Encouraging participation in virtual communities. Communications of the ACM, 50(2), 68-73. Granovetter., M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6). Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. Muniz, A. M., & O’Guinn, T. C. (2001). Brand Community. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(4), 412-432. Naude, P. & Buttle, F. (2000). Assessing relationship quality. Industrial Marketing Management, 29(4), 351-361. Roberts, K., Varki, S., & Brodie, R. (2003). Measuring the quality of relationships in consumer services: an empirical study. European Journal of Marketing, 37(1), 169-196. Ryan, R. M., & Frederick, C. (1997). On energy, personality, and health: subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of well-being. Journal of Personality, 65(3), 529-565. Szmigin, I., Canning, L., & Reppel, A. E. (2005). Online community: enhancing the 14
  15. 15. relationship marketing concept through customer bonding. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 16(5), 480-296. Sangwan, S. (2005). Virtual community success: a uses and gratifications perspective, Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2005. Tajfel, M. G., R. P. Bundy, & C. Flament. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behavior, European Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 149-178. Turner, M. E., Pratkanis, A. R. Probasco, P., & Leve, C. (1992). Threat, cohesion, and group effectiveness: testing a social identity maintenance perspective on groupthink. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 781-796. 15

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