Companies recently discovered the opportunity to combine products with online communities, to support continuous usage of their product(s) in evolving ways; creating a whole new experience for customers. While previously consumption ended after the tangible product had been purchased, the online community continues the consumption period and becomes more important to the customer than the product itself. We call this a “continuous consumption community.”
To keep these online communities functioning, there must be some level of community commitment that is either need, affect, or obligation-based (Bateman, et. al, 2011). An online community would ideally like to evoke affective community commitment, or “an emotional attachment to the organization, which leads them to act in ways that further the organization’s interests,” (Meyer and Herscovitch 2001). Specifically within online communities, this type of commitment stimulates both reply-posting and moderating behavior among users (Bateman, et. al, 2011).
So how do these websites attract users and create “emotional attachment”? The fitness community 1-2 Sports (www.1-2-sports.com) tries to attract users through an easy-to-use website and mobile app, lowing the barrier of entry for novices to join the community. Some online communities create attachment through a common identity; the gaming community World of Warcraft evokes identity with graphics (www.warcraft.com).
Upon first glance at the website of another online community, Nerd Fitness, you might think it was created in 1997 instead of 2009; the graphics are out-of-date and the interface is rather tricky to navigate. And yet it has successfully created an online fitness community of nearly 200,000 users! How?!
Nerd Fitness attracted users by creating affective commitment through a sense of belonging to this fantasy fitness realm, where users create avatars and join guilds.
The tangible product, a forty-dollar fitness book, is only the guideline for the experience, but the heart of the product is the online community. Steve, the founder, a normal guy, stresses that there are no experts involved; instead every member of the community helps to guide and support the other members of the community on their quest to fitness. The Nerd Fitness motto perfectly summarizes the feeling of the community:
#1. We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going.
#2. When you join, you’re in for life.
Nerd Fitness has many features to increase commitment such as chat rooms, forums, pictures, track/follow members, recognition and rewards which all promote trust and personal success and commitment within the community and connection between users which strengthens the group identity. Nerd Fitness gives room for the user to make multiple interpretations (ex: making a hybrid avatar) helping novice members to not feel intimidated by expert opinions or unrealistic goals through a close-knit and non-judgmental community. The website also takes a new-spin on “opinion leaders,” (Paulo et. al, 2014), and empowers newbies to become experts, such as Staci here…
An example of the rewards and recognition system, Staci is a “success story,” earning her opinion leadership status through her personal successful weight loss and her commitment to the community. Now Stacy along with a number of other “success stories” are the ones that run the website, a sign that Nerd Fitness has truly become a successful continuous community.
This post has been brought to you by Group 9:
Agnes, Alison, Konstantina, Marijn & Nelly
- Bateman, Patrick J., Peter H. Gray, and Brian S. Butler. “Research Note-The Impact of Community Commitment on Participation in Online Communities.” Information Systems Research 22.4 (2011): 841-854.
- Chen, Yubo, Qi Wang, and Jinhong Xie. “Online social interactions: A natural experiment on word of mouth versus observational learning.” Journal of Marketing Research 48.2 (2011): 238-254.
- Paulo B. Goes, Mingfeng Lin, Ching-man Au Yeung “Popularity Effect” in User-Generated Content: Evidence from Online Product Reviews.” Information Systems Research (2014)