Tag Archives: Online Community

The differential impact of brand loyalty on traditional and online word of mouth: The moderating roles of self-brand connection and the desire to help the brand


As we all might know, word of mouth (WOM) plays a significant role within the business field. Indeed, a popular refrain is mentioned by Merlo et al. (2014, p. 82) that “word of mouth is associated with increased customer loyalty”. Several studies (Matos & Rossi, 2008; Watson et al., 2015) have also confirmed this by their research on the relation between customer loyalty and WOM. In this paper, the authors went one step further in this aspect, and investigated how the relation between loyalty and WOM is ‘’affected by the shift from offline to online communication channels and from traditional, face-to-face conversations (i.e., in-person WOM) to online WOM(i.e., eWOM)” (Eelen, Özturan & Verlegh, 2017).

The authors conduct 4 studies in this paper. For the first study, they conduct a survey with regards to ten preselected consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands among 1061 consumers. They follow up with three experiments. In these experiments, they acquired a total of 1473 participants from Amazon MTurk that participated.

For the first experiment, the second study they conducted, the authors replicated the survey. This time however, instead of measuring they tried to manipulate brand loyalty and self-brand connection by asking participants theirselves to come up with brands they could think of.

The second experiment, the third study the authors conducted, focused on loyal consumers and their intentions to engage in in-person WOM and eWOM. The intentions were linked to their perceptions of social risk and psychological benefit. Lastly, the third experiment, the fourth study that was conducted, investigated the actual eWOM behavior of the participants (Eelen et al., 2017).

The findings of the article show that brand loyalty is positively related to word of mouth for CPG products, however, they also indicate that this relation is much weaker for eWOM than for in-person WOM. Another finding was that it appeared that loyal consumers were more willing to engage in eWOM, if there was a self-brand connection present. The last finding was based on the actual eWOM behavior, which indicated that consumers could be motivated to engage in eWOM if they were told that this would be helpful for the brand. It turned out that this approach was effective for loyal consumers, but not for the occasional users (consumers) of a brand (Eelen et al., 2017).

These findings may have several managerial implications. First of all, it provides marketers and brand managers with new insights. As these findings already implied, marketers and brand managers could consider an actionable strategy for stimulating their loyal customers to spread eWOM. Moreover, two specific types of motivation are considered when thinking about tackling this issue. First, the brands could link their customer engagement programs to the consumers’ need for self-presentation. Secondly, it could be done by strengthening the consumers’ identification with the brand. Additionally, brands could also provide customers with several eWOM tools that make it more applicable when the brand is top of mind (think of after purchasing etc.). Lastly, as can be concluded from the paper, that there was a positive relation between eWOM and the use of online media. Marketers may also think of targeting the customers that make heavily use social media, but are not necessarily brand loyal (Eelen et al., 2017).

A good example made in the article itself, was when the business Nutella, was able to organize an online action where its customers could design their own Nutella Jar. The customers were especially people who used social media a lot, but were triggered to also buy the brand, because they had to visit a store and purchase the jar of Nutella first before they could use the label (Eelen et al., 2017).

The article finds its strength in conducting a research that looks into the products side of in-person WOM and eWOM, instead of the service business. As it is also mentioned in the article, a lot of study has been done on the service business (58) but just a few on the product side (8). Another strength of the article would be the several manipulation checks and in-differences methods, to increase the robustness of the findings.  Lastly, the article is able to present convenient managerial implications and theoretical contributions (Eelen et al., 2017).

Now, when considering the weaknesses of the article, one of the most notable would be the fact that the authors tend to fail on exploring more possible differences between subtypes of eWOM. When thinking about the different online channels possible, e.g. Twitter vs. Facebook vs. brand site itself vs. store platform for reviews etc., these channels could all have different implications and customer usage of eWOM. To understand the differences more, the article could have studied the various dimensions that underlie these differences of the channel. Therefore, better insight could have be given to marketers, based on more specific channels for usage, also on which is more effective than the other (Eelen et al., 2017).

 

Eelen, J., Özturan, P., & Verlegh, P. W. (2017). The differential impact of brand loyalty on traditional and online word of mouth: The moderating roles of self-brand connection and the desire to help the brand. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(4), 872-891.

Watson, G. F., Beck, J. T., Henderson, C. M., & Palmatier, R. W. (2015). Building, measuring, and profiting from customer loyalty. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 43(6), 790–825. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11747-015-0439-4.

Merlo, O., Eisingerich, A. B., & Auh, S. (2014). Why customer participation matters. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55(2), 81–88.

de Matos, C. A., & Rossi, C. A. V. (2008). Word-of-mouth communications in marketing: A meta-analytic review of the antecedents and moderators. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36(4), 578–596. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11747-008-0121-1.

 

Business talking to business – And if secrets of success were not so secret anymore ?


B2B online communities. This might still seem abstract for a lot of us. And even if we would love to read something like “Snap wrote on 2nd of August 2016 on your group “Social Network besties” : Hey y’all, any good recommendation for IP lawyers since @instagram copied my whole stories concept yesterday ? Thank for your help. NB : @admin could you ban @instagram from our group for breaking our rules?”, B2B online communities are actually a growing places to network or exchange recommendations and good practices between managers and business owners.

Wether it be marketers trying to reach to their target, sales people connecting with prospects, start-up founders trying to gather knowledge or managers trying to solve HR problem, networking has always been presented as a key to success in business. However, beyond obvious motives, there is a strong interest in understanding what influence communities members to actively participate with their peers over time and after their first needs have been met. In their article “Factors affecting active participation in B2B online communities: An empirical investigation” (2017), Gharib, Philpott and Duan explored empirically for the first time what elements influence members’ decisions to  actively take part in a B2B online communities.

Using both social exchange and information system success model, the authors tested a series of different variables potentially influencing members active participation. The authors defined active participation in a B2B online community as follows “community members carrying out several activities on a regular basis (e.g., daily or weekly). These activities include logging on to the community website, keeping their profile up to date, complying with community rules and regulations, posting quality messages that engender discussions, and replying to posted questions”.

So at that point, any guess on what might influence businesses to reach to peers for advice ? Basing their research on proven factors in “traditional” online communities, you might first get surprised by the studied factors. But keep reading, it will soon make sense.

After a first qualitative research to adapt active participation measurement to B2B context, the authors gathered survey answers from 521 online communities members from 40 discussions forum on Linkedin. This is the largest qualitative studies conducted so far on B2B online communities and thus set-up the ground for further researches on the field.  Throughout their paper, several factors from social exchange theory and information system success model are analyzed within the spectrum of business relationships :

  • Generalized reciprocity

The participation to B2B online communities is generally interested. However to make it work, the exchange of information must be as reciprocal as possible. Members will keep participating actively, for instance by providing advice, only if they believe that someone else will help them out whenever they will need information as well. In social exchange theory literature, this is referred as a cost/benefit relationship. Framed like this, B2B online interactions seems very rationalized exchange of information .. or are they ?

  • Affective commitment

Indeed, the authors confirmed previous studies’s findings on commitment in online communities.  Some B2B online communities members develop a  strong sense of belonging and emotional attachement that drives them to keep actively participating in the forum discussion.

  • Trust

Even if the direct relationship between active participation and trust were quite low in their study result, trust is an important part of the global mechanism of online participation in B2B online communities as it impacts affective commitment. Indeed business owners and managers on discussion forum are brought to share their companies best practices which make them vulnerable. In consequences, it is crucial that members trust each others to put their knowledge at good use.

  • Information, system and service quality

From an information system point of view, the authors studied different quality components of online communities forum/website. Information quality,  in respect to their relevance, informativeness or form and system quality, in respect to their security, reliability and usability plays a role in trust beliefs development. In addition to that, the authors discovers a steady relationships between service quality and active participation in the form of service provided by in-group moderators. Indeed, moderators plays an extremely important role to enforce group rules (eg : type of publication allowed) and ensure content quality. For instance, I am members of the Facebook Group “French startups” that counts more than 24 000 members in which rules are very clear and moderation obvious : no advertisement, no internship offers etc. I really appreciate that only relevant topics from entrepreneurs helping out each others are brought up in my Facebook feed.

Capture d_écran 2018-03-07 à 19.21.54
Pinned post of the Facebook group “French startups” displaying the group rules

As mentioned above, the authors used factors from the online communities literature and pre-modeled which leads me to think that there might be more out there to explain active participation of B2B online communities members and that the choice of factors to study was restricted by the model choices. One should not forget that even in a B2B context, forum discussion are still individuals interacting. For instance, it might be sounds to suggest that some participants might be more experienced and knowledgeable and that contributing on these forums increases their self-esteem and needs for recognition. As pointed out by the authors, there is still a lot that we can learn from online communities members interacting in B2B context and we hope to read more studies about it soon.

Reference: 

Gharib R, Philpott E, Duan Y (2017), “Factors affecting active participation in B2B online communities: An empirical investigation“, Information & Management, Vol 54 (4)

 

The Central Role of Engagement in Online Communities


ENGAGEMENT

(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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 16.04.04

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.

 


Sources:

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.

Using a ‘healthy dose of guilt’ to achieve your goals


Over the years many different types of social online communities have gained popularity. It has allowed for individuals with widely differing interests to connect and interact with others that share common interests. Think of CouchSurfing, Facebook, Reddit, and SoundCloud, among many, many others. For those that are rather goal-oriented and keen on connecting with others that share a similar mindset, Linkagoal is the optimal social network.

Linkagoal is a social online community based on the premise of sharing personal goals and connecting individuals based on related life goals and ambition. On this social network users can engage with other goal-driven users. Besides sharing your own goals with the community, you can connect with members who can assist you in achieving your goals, or with people that are currently trying to achieve a similar goal. Linkagoal’s underlying belief is that barriers such as the lack of resources, guidance, experience, accountability, and encouragement, are what keep humans from reaching their goals. Thus, why not build an online community to make it easier for people to overcome these obstacles and achieve their ultimate goals. (ACN Newswire, 2014)

The online community takes on a simple, yet unique approach to foster goal-attainment of their users. Firstly, new members can create a goal and explicitly state what it is that they want to accomplish. Secondly, individuals are encouraged to share a post with other community members regarding their past and present events. The third aspect is called Progress Update, which entails that users keep the community up to date on their progress towards their goal. Fourthly, users are encouraged to create milestones, in order to help them stay on track. Moreover, members are expected to motivate others in attaining their goals. Furthermore, users can build their own mini-community by linking their goals to other similar goals. In addition, individuals can contribute to the attainment of other members’ goals by offering their knowledge and experience. Lastly, the social network offers a private messaging, so members can stay connected with their friends. (Linkagoal, 2017)

Despite their good intensions, Linkagoal has received quite some backlash for their claim that a ‘healthy dose of guilt’ provides ‘just the right amount of pressure’ to keep users on track. However, mental-health experts have condemned this approach, as they believe it could have detrimental effects on individuals. Furthermore, Linkagoal partnered with YouGov to explore drivers of motivation, especially regarding annual goals. They found that nearly 62 percent of social-media users feel a higher level of pressure to stay on track when others can see their progress. It is exactly this belief that experts find disturbing. Rather than ‘avoiding the negative, i.e. the threat of others knowing you have failed’, they believe Linkagoal should ‘encourage and reinforce the positive’. (Mail Online, 2016)

Nevertheless, the social network has a strong community base of over 2 million members, which is expected to grow even further. Therefore, the social network is primarily focusing on monetization, with the rollout of mentorship services, rewards, and goal campaign features in the near future (The Silicon Review, 2016). Furthermore, Linkagoal is available as an app on both Google Play and the App Store.

Who knows, maybe Linkagoal will one day join the ranks of Facebook or Twitter, only time will tell.

References

ACN Newswire. (2014). Linkagoal Secures $1.25M in Series A Funding. [online] Available at: http://www.acnnewswire.com/press-release/english/16486/linkagoal-secures-$1.25m-in-series-a-funding [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

Linkagoal. (2017). Linkagoal | Share Your Life Goals. [online] Available at: https://www.linkagoal.com/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

Mail Online. (2016). Experts hit out at ‘guilt and shame’ goal share websites. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3602375/Experts-hit-guilt-shame-goal-share-websites-Networking-sites-slammed-detrimental-mental-health-effects.html [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

The Silicon Review. (2016). The Goal Based Social Network: Linkagoal, Inc.. [online] Available at: http://thesiliconreview.com/magazines/the-goal-based-social-network-linkagoal-inc/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2017].

Skillshare: The Future Belongs to the Curious


This start-up built an alternative education system that’s poised to have a major impact on the learning landscape” (Tracy, 2017).

Skillshare, launched in April 2011 by Michael Karnjanaprakorn (Joyner, 2017), is an online learning platform where the world’s best experts teach world’s best skills. With Skillshare it is possible to learn and practice a skill by doing. You can learn a skill together with their community of over 2 million students and teachers and network with them. Classes and skills are taught by expert practitioners, which makes it possible for everybody to get unlimited access to over 14,000 classes in different categories, such as design, technology, entrepreneurship and many more (Skillshare, 2017). This start-up  uses the benefits from crowdsourcing. The crowd is used to teach other interested individuals a new skill, that are traditionally performed by a designated agent (Howe, 2006)

how-it-works

Learning should be as easy as listening to music at Spotify or watching your favorite movie on Netflix. Skillshare is really about learning by doing and every class is project-based as well. Students can create projects, alter them to the website and can get feedback from students all around the world (Skillshare, 2017). Thus, unlike other educational online platforms, you don’t need to have a Ph.D. to teach something valuable. And on the other hand, learning skills is for everyone universal accessible and relatively inexpensive. It is for everyone easy to become a lifelong learner.The mission of Skillshare is to close the professional skill gap and provide universal access to high-quality learning (Skillshare, 2017). They believe that there is a huge difference between education and learning. Skillshare empowers people to take a leap in their careers, improve their lives and pursue the work they love, by teaching skills online that are needed in tomorrow’s world. This mission directly shows the major strength of Skillshare and how they differentiate themselves from competitive education platforms. Skillshare allows everyone to sign up and teach a class. By doing this they want to provide universal access to high-quality learning.

explaoin

How it works

For the lifelong learner, Skillshare makes it possible to get universal access to high-quality learning and to learn anything they want to. They offer the possibility to watch classes, online and offline, on your own schedule, anytime and anywhere. Thus they make it possible to learn at your own pace. Furthermore, the classes are taught by an expert with experience in the field. These classes include video lessons that are relatively short with most lessons under one hour, written text. And with the project-based environment you really learn by doing and are able to share your project in the class to get feedback and collaborate with a large community (Skillshare Help, 2017). They offer their members the possibility to create projects and build a portfolio of their work. On the other hand, Skillshare makes it possible for everyone to share their knowledge in a particular field, as long as the class follows certain guidelines. The company has proven adept at acquiring experts to teach on their website (Bromwich, 2015).

Skillshare has a freemium model which allows users to access free classes, create projects and discussions within them. However, this model includes videos with advertisements. A premium model offers their users to get unlimited access to over 14,000 classes, watch them offline and ad-free (Skillshare Premium, 2017).

Efficiency criteria:

Skillshare is one of the leading educational platforms that offers everyone universal access to learn a new skill at an affordable price. The platform maximizes the joint profitability of both of the players involved (Carson et al., 1999). On one side, it is for individuals easy to reach a large audience and teach them a skill of their experience. They are not bounded by a physical location anymore and therefore can have a more efficient personal schedule. Additionally, they can earn a little to a lot.

On the other side, many individuals can learn and practice a new skill at an affordable price. At the same time, they can collaborate with a large community and get feedback from them, so that the wisdom of the crowd can be used.

Evaluating the institutional environment, the largest threat for Skillshare is that there are too many new teachers who don’t add value to the platform. However, because there are guidelines and requirements that should be met before a class can be created, this threat is limited.

Concluded, Skillshare is an online platform that offers universal access to high-quality learning at an affordable price.

References:

Bromwich, J. (2015) ‘Anyone Can Be a Teacher at Skillshare, an Online School, The New York Times, available online from: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/education/anyone-can-be-a-teacher-in-this-online-school.html?_r=0 [28 February 2017].

Carson, S. J., Devinney, T. M., Dowling, G. R., & John, G. (1999) ‘Understanding institutional designs within marketing value systems’, Journal of Marketing, 115-130.

Howe, J. (2006) ‘The rise of crowdsourcing’, Wired, 14 (6).

Joyner, A. (2017) Skillshare Takes On the Education Gap, available online from: http://www.inc.com/best-industries-2013/april-joyner/skillshare-education-gap.html [28 February 2017].

Tracy, A. (2017) Skillshare: Redesigning  Education for the Masses, available online from: http://www.inc.com/abigail-tracy/35-under-35-skillshare-online-education-platform.html [28 February 2017].

Skillshare (2017) Unlimited access to over 14,000 classes, available online from: https://www.skillshare.com/ [28 February 2017].

Skillshare Help (2017) How does Skillshare work?, available online from: https://help.skillshare.com/hc/en-us/articles/205208147-How-does-Skillshare-work- [28 February 2017].

Skillshare Premium (2017) Why Premium?, available online from: https://www.skillshare.com/premium [28 February 2017].

Do you like to question everything? Then you’re welcome here


In the today’s world of internet people are surrounded by lots of information often leading to an overload of information. It is even more problematic to identify the right information from the wrong or redundant one.  This overload of information can often lead to unanswered questions which we may face in our day to day lives. Is organic healthy? Should I eat GMO food? What are gravitational waves? Are vaccines reliable? A simple google search can yield results which offer contrasting arguments and you just do not know what to believe. Introducing the Skeptics Guide to the Universe,  http://www.theskepticsguide.org/. An online community of users and experts which tackle these day to day questions and provide answers based on logic, science and analytical reasoning. It is also an award winning science podcast with over 500 episodes.

Continue reading Do you like to question everything? Then you’re welcome here

Hazing with the X-Files fans


Online communities are platforms where like-minded can converse with each other and share things. We are undoubtedly all part of one or more of these platforms, take for example Facebook, YouTube or even this blog you are reading right now! Usually online communities form around a certain hobby or fanpage where you can find fellow fans and get in contact with each other. One of these platforms was formed in 1998 among fans of the then running tv show The X-Files, named the X-Filesaholics. This platform shows that sometimes, boundaries between real life and the virtual world can become extremely vague, and that people online can participate in situations that even in real life are not considered pleasant.

More precisely, I am talking about the concept of hazing: something that is still very alive in student fraternities in the Netherlands. Hazing a practice meant to show the freshmen, or newbies, that there is a set hierarchy within the fraternity and that they should obey those with more power. This includes doing chores, public embarassment and often verbal abuse. Not very fun now is it?

So how does an online platform for X-Files fans relate to this? An extended study (Honeycutt, 2006) of the community shows how the users of this site are using hazing techniques to maintain boundaries and excert power onto newcomers of the platform to maintain the inequality inherent between dominant and subordinate groups.On the message board, also referred to as “Mulders Apartment”, many things are discussed unrelated to the X-Files whatsoever. Newcomers are expected to go through an intitiation ritual, part of which is the so called “toothbrush/ice block welcoming ritual”. According to this ritual newcomers are assigned a room inside the apartment that they then need to scrub using only a toothbrush.

Continue reading Hazing with the X-Files fans