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The Central Role of Engagement in Online Communities


(noun) emotional involvement or commitment


You might haven’t noticed but in one way or the other we’ve all interacted on or with an online community. Whether it was while searching for travel routes, computer settings or in a fashion context. Chances are you read some posts until you found what you were looking for and then left the page without contributing. You are not alone in this, 90% of users never or rarely contributes, while 9% contribute 10% of the content and 1% contribute 90% of the content. This is commonly referred to as the 90-9-1 rule. But how can online communities encourage more people to create content and to help recruit others?

This was one of the questions that led Ray and Morris (2014) to conduct their research. More specifically, their goal was to introduce the concept of engagement, which drives pro-social behaviors in the context of open, non-binding online communities. Prior research has extensively recognized the role of engagement in communities, interestingly online community engagement has not been explicitly conceptualized, modeled, measured, or analyzed as a mediating construct in the information systems literature. This paper is the first to do so.

Building on Ma and Agarwal’s (2007) framework the authors propose a model that shows the central role of community engagement and how it relates to different outcomes (Figure 1). Data was collected from 301 users of online communities and structural equation modelling was used to test the proposed model. The developed framework recognizes that online communities are unique socio-technological environments in which engagement succeeds. In particular, members primarily contribute to and re-visit an online community out of a sense of engagement.

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The authors find that members must feel engaged with the online community to actually create content and that members who merely feel satisfied can still help the online community by saying things that might help recruit others. In addition, they found that self-identity verification (the extent to which the way you see yourself matches the way others see you) has an indirect effect on knowledge contribution through engagement. Furthermore,  this paper provide evidence that engagement also mediates the effect between knowledge self-efficacy (the belief that you have the ability and expertise to contribute) and intention to contribute.

The main strength of the paper is its methodology. The authors have applied several models and control variables to ensure valid results. The main managerial implication for community managers is to help members enhance their self-identity, which eventually will lead to more contribution. They can do so by creating signals for members either by letting them choose a badge themselves or by automatically creating signals from prior activities and achievements such as for example”300+ posts on Data Science”.

In conclusion, this Ray and Morris (2014) found evidence that merely satisfaction is not enough to encourage consumers to actively contribute to online communities, but that engagement plays a central role. To get back to the main question raised in the introduction, the key to promoting pro-social behavior (creating content and recruiting others) in online communities is to create the right balance of engagement and satisfaction.



Ray, S., Kim, S. S., & Morris, J. G. (2014). The central role of engagement in online communities. Information Systems Research, 25(3), 528-546.

Ma, M., & Agarwal, R. (2007). Through a glass darkly: Information technology design, identity verification, and knowledge contribution in online communities. Information systems research, 18(1), 42-67.

Which products are best suited to mobile advertising?

No doubt it is the first thing you look at when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you see before you go to sleep: your mobile phone. Imagine when checking the weather app before you leave the house a banner pops-up showing an ad for a new movie. What will be the chance that this banner will have any effect on you?

Mobile phones have become a part of our lives. According to eMarketer (2015a) US adults spend an average of 3 hours per day on mobile devices. Therefore, it is not surprising that global spending on mobile advertising has been rapidly growing up to more than $100 billion in 2016 (eMarketer, 2015b). Marketers want to grab the opportunity to capture your attention while browsing on your phone. However, marketers are not very happy with the effectiveness of their mobile advertising campaigns. Most of the time, they do not know what they are doing and are using a so-called ‘spray-and-pray’ mentality.

Because of the large-scale investments that are being made in mobile advertising, a better understanding of factors affecting mobile advertising campaign performance is needed. This is where Bart et al. (2014) saw an opportunity for research. Their main question is: ‘Under what product-related conditions are mobile display advertisements effective in changing consumers’ product related attitudes and purchase intentions?’.

Bart et al. (2014) used a multi-campaign, multi-industry data set from a large U.S. market research agency. 39,946 consumers participated in their field study and completed a questionnaire about products featured in 54 mobile display ads from 2007 to 2010. This large and double mixed data set is one of the main strengths of the paper. The authors estimated Average Treatment Effects (the difference between the mean attitude or intention ratings in the exposed and control conditions) for attitude and intention, moderated by product involvement (high or low) and product type (utilitarian or hedonic).

The most striking result from their study is that mobile display advertisements tend to only be effective for products that are both utilitarian and have high involvement, such as washing machines and family cars. These ads, on average, increased positive attitude by 4.5% and intention to buy by 6.7%, while hedonic and low involvement product ads (such as a sports car or toilet paper) had no effect.

An underlying psychological reason for this result is that high involvement goods are relevant and consumers are likely to have retained information about them. Even though mobile display ads do not include a lot of information they do have the ability to influence consumers by triggering their memory about a product that has already been assessed. In addition, a higher involvement with the product tends to be processed cognitively rather than emotionally, which is why mobile display ads work better for utilitarian products rather than hedonic products.

The main managerial implications of this study are that given a product, marketers can now better understand whether a mobile display ad will be effective or not. Also, given the decision of a marketer to invest in a mobile display advertisement campaign, they can have a better sense of what product to use and how to position this product in order to maximize campaign effectiveness.

So after reading these results and interesting findings, what do you think, will a banner on your phone showing a movie ad have an effect on you?


Bart, Y., Stephen, A. T., & Sarvary, M. (2014). Which products are best suited to mobile advertising? A field study of mobile display advertising effects on consumer attitudes and intentions. Journal of Marketing Research51(3), 270-285.

eMarketer (2015a) Growth of Time Spent on Mobile Devices Slows available at:

eMarketer (2015b) Mobile Ad Spend to Top 100 Billion Worldwide in 2016, 51% of Digital Market available at: (

UNITED WARDROBE An Infinite Closet in Your Pocket

Imagine you bought a pair of sneakers. After wearing them a few times you realize they don’t fit properly. Even though they are as good as new, you are not able to return them. You could try to resell them online on Facebook or Marktplaats, but you have some uncertainties about safety and security. This is where United Wardrobe comes in: a hip, social and safe fashion platform.

United Wardrobe is an online platform for buying and selling second hand fashion. The key aspects of the platform are safety, sustainability and service. But United Wardrobe is more than just a marketplace platform, it is a community where you can chat with other fashion lovers, follow users and favorite each other’s products. These social functions empower users to become co-creators of value.

How does it work?
A user can create a profile and upload products for sale. The moment a buyer has paid for a product, the seller receives their contact details. As soon as the package has been received, United Wardrobe transfers the money within 14 days to the seller (United Wardrobe, 2017). This relates to what Carson et al. (1999) define as institutional arrangements, the formal and informal rules of exchange created by specific parties to a specific exchange, in this case the exchange of fashion.

The institutional arrangements of United Wardrobe meet three criteria set by Carson et al. (1999). Firstly, they are efficient in a sense that they enable joint profitability and create incentives for users to contribute. Next to this, they are feasible given the characteristics of the exchange of products. Finally, they are achievable in a sense that United Wardrobe has succeeded in growing the platform and community. These institutional arrangements allow United Wardrobe to tackle safety and security issues such as scamming, which no other marketplace platform has succeeded to do.

Users are an important part of United Wardrobe’s business model and enable more creation of value than the company could create on its own. In fact, without its users, the company would not even exist. This is the essence of value co-creation, where new ways are identified to support either the customer’s or the firm’s value-creating process (Saarijärvi et al., 2013). An interesting feature on the website is a page where you can see what the most popular search terms are. This reflects a customer value co-creation mechanism where the firm has refined user data and returned it to the users (Saarijärvi et al., 2013). United Wardrobe has won several prizes with its concept including Dutch Online Retail Experience Award 2015 and the public award of Accenture’s Innovation Awards in 2014.

From my own experience with the platform I can assure you that it is a fun and easy way to sell some clothes. Everyone has clothing at the back of their closet they never wear. A pair of trousers that you might hate another might love, so get up and make that extra money. From an environmental perspective I think this business model is a great step towards a better planet by recycling fashion.

Carson, S. J., Devinney, T. M., Dowling, G. R., & John, G. (1999). Understanding institutional designs within marketing value systems. Journal of Marketing, 115-130.

Saarijärvi, H., Kannan, P. K., & Kuusela, H. (2013). Value co-creation: theoretical approaches and practical implications. European Business Review, 25(1), 6-19.

United Wardrobe (2017) Available at: Accessed on 15/02/2017