Tag Archives: #VirtualWorld

New Ingredient for Your Diet: Virtual Support Communities!

Keywords: Virtual communities; Virtual support communities; Public commitment; Identity-based motivation; Social identity; Weight loss


                                               Share your progress 🙂

Dear bloggers,

Session 6 of the course Customer-centric Digital Commerce will be about community commitment and sharing economies. The required readings for this session are about why people participate in collaborative consumption and what managers should know about the sharing economy. This blog post will provide some insight into the required literature for this week by showing the effect virtual support communities could have on achieving individual goals, for example weight loss. I hope you feel inspired!

Have you ever wondered why your friends share their holidays, high wines and new clothes on Social Media that much? Do you sometimes feel desperate by watching so much bullsh#t on the day that you have to work on your blog posts? Well, then buy yourself a large Starbucks at the campus and feel energized. But.. does it actually help? I have a better suggestion: open your Instagram or SnapChat App and SHARE YOUR PROGRESS. I can promise you will feel energized as if you drank three Starbucks in a row!

Unfortunately, a new trend is coming where people actually don’t like the Social Media Bloggers since it make people feel the grass is always greener on the other side (you might recognize this). However, you can use that grass to color yours and benefit from it! But.. how?

The answer is simple: grab your mobile phone, open your Instagram and share your personal progress. And yes: this has been confirmed by a very interesting paper.

Academic Paper
Let me introduce you a very inspiring study, named ‘Weight loss Through Virtual Support Communities: A Role for Identity-based Motivation in Public Commitment’’. The authors of this study published their convincing findings in the Journal of Interactive Marketing and concluded that watching others’ success on social media can actually be effective for your own success. In this study, they observed the progress of two different weight-loss communities over a period of four years, which is quite long. They found that those who had shared their progress online had greater success in achieving their weight-loss goals than those who did not share their progress.

The two communities included in the study are ObesityHelp.com, the best website for surgical weight loss support, and WeightWatchers.com, the site for the top lifestyle-oriented weight loss program. Within these sites, individuals can access information or create content via blogs, chat rooms, or comments. They write and share blogs and are encouraged to actively share their progress through both text and pictures.

According to the authors, social identity motivates public commitment in support of goal attainment. The sharing of intimate information and photos about weight loss goals in virtual space seems to be a key factor in motivating behaviors and thus helps people attain their goals. So, actually, people can share the greenness of their grass instead of thinking that it’s always greener on the other side! GO ONLINE AND SHARE YOUR PROGRESS. It might be more effective than just drinking coffee..

Side note: there are four types of virtual support community members:

Which type of community member do you think you are? For example on Instagram?

Figure 1 | Typology of virtual support community members (Bradford et al., 2017)

Why is it relevant?
Not everyone can get the support they need from other people they interact with in person on a daily basis, for example friends and family. It might be helpful that technology can support community building and goal achievement in a digital world. Virtual Support Communities, such as online blogs, Instagram Blogs, and Facebook allow for accessibility, availability and flexibility in how users represent themselves on their achievements. These communities help participants to keep motivation and strive for progress. It decreases feelings of loneliness and makes people feel more happy and supported.

Virtual Suppo…. what’s that?
Social media can be used to build connections and relationships to have impact on the world. Jim Rawson says social media can build a virtual community in which to transform the sharing of ideas into real life endeavors. He is an academic professor at Georgia Regents University and his primary research interest is health policy, process improvement and innovative educational techniques. You should watch this video if you want a detailed explanation of what virtual support communities can do for online users today. Examples of virtual support communities are blogs on Instagram, Facebook and several webpages.

Click on the following link to watch the TedTalk of Jim Rawson on Youtube: TedTalk.

Figure 2 | Example of Virtual Support Community on Instagram (wdtv.com, 2018)

Conclusion – ”Sharing the triumphs and tribulations of your weight loss journey with other members of an online virtual support community plays an important role in achieving success, according this new study. The study examines the role of virtual communities and public commitment in setting and reaching weight loss goals.” – Bradford et al. 2017

Critical Note
Strength: the study provides a new definition of virtual support communities by developing a typology of different users. This typology is based on both beneficiary focus and the breadth of sharing.

Strength: the study contributes an explanation of how the balance between compliance and co-creation influences opportunities for public commitment in Virtual Support Communities. Prior literature called for additional research into roles for value creation in online communities. The authors of this study provide answers to this demand. 

Weakness: the authors do not explain the limitations of their study, they only discuss their contribution to prior literature. A critical note towards their own work is missing.

Weakness: the authors used two samples from the following communities: obesityhelp.com and weightwatchers.com. Both communities focus on lifestyle-oriented weight loss. The results of this study thus might be low in generalization since online communities differ in the subjects they are focusing on. It might be that sharing progress around for example career might be less positively working on others than the progress of weight loss. Losing weight is kind of health related and people would therefore feel more emotionally attached towards their ‘friends’. For sharing progress around careers, it might be that envy comes into play.

Suggestion: further research that investigate the effect of virtual support communities should incorporate several distinct online communities. Communities that both differ in user types (recruiters, learners, etc.) and are focused on different topics (career, study, health, etc.). Moreover, further research should make a critical note around their own work. This study doesn’t provide limitations, which is disadvantageous for readers’ confidence.


Are you ready to share your progress? I hope you feel inspired 🙂 



Tonya Williams Bradford, Sonya A. Grier, Geraldine Rosa Henderson, Weight Loss Through Virtual Support Communities: A Role for Identity-based Motivation in Public Commitment, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Volume 40, 2017, Pages 9-23, ISSN 1094-9968.

D. Verpalen
Erasmus University, The Netherlands



Bringing customers into the co-creation environment is not always easy. Therefore, Kohler et al., (2011) believe virtual technology is the next crucial tool that can leverage the co-creation between firms and customers. In the study, they investigate how people can be attracted to co-create virtually. The authors pick an online game called Second Life. Basically, it is an online virtual world in which the players can socialize, connect, and do pretty much regular activities that can be done in the real world. In this world (or game), the authors conducted 3 different experiments in 3 different co-creation systems called Ideation Quests (IQ) where existing communities (frequent players) were participating. Not only it is unique, it has never been done properly before. For that reason, this article has given significant contribution with regard to how firms should design virtual co-creation environment so as to leverage co-creation.

Building upon the virtual customer experience of Nambisan (2007, 2008, 2009), the authors worked together with KTP and Philips for the first 2 Ideation Quests. After the collaboration between these companies and participants finished, the authors evaluate the co-creation systems (IQ) by conducting an in-depth interviews, observing participant’s behavior, and studying the log analysis (Heat Map) and interaction among avatars. The evaluation is used to identify what are elements of participant’s experience in the virtual world that encourage them to co-create virtually. As a result, there are 5 dimensions of experience that are believed to increase the likelihood of online players to participate in virtual co-creation process.

Firstly, pragmatic experience is measured from the information quality and technological aspect. From the study, interactive objects are seen as very important learning opportunity so customers can understand the new product/idea quickly. Furthermore, the IQ should incorporate audio, video, or even animation effects to catch customer’s attention effectively. Then, participants must be introduced to immersive type of co-creational situation that stimulate multiple senses (instead of instruction-based situation).

Secondly, sociability experience is what allows the participants to interact with others easily. Firms can create events to attract huge number of people and allow collaboration among them to manifest. The firm’s representatives should also be interacting with the customers as majority of participants expect to have direct contact with the brand as well. Subsequently, firm may help providing individual support that can reduce participants’ cognitive cost.

Thirdly, usability experience is measured by how the computer can understand what the player wants and vice versa. To avoid such confusion, the infrastructure needs to be simple and intuitive. Navigation  structure also needs to be clear, especially if the firm is using multiple places for the co-creation activity. Moreover, It is recommended that the IQ must incorporate behavioral activities that are resembling real-world activities for participants to easily understand the whole process.

Fourth experience is hedonic.  This is often seen as the source of pleasure and enjoyment. Nurturing playfulness is often associated with creativity and thus generate new ideas.  It can be done by incorporating game mechanics and playful elements. Furthermore, the inclusion of challenging tasks will drive participations from competitive and curious people from which interesting ideas might be born.

Lastly, collaborative experience encourages participants to co-create the co-creation system themselves. With that said, participants are granted with high degree of freedom to adjust the environment (together with other participants) where they will be co-creating.



Kohler, T., Fueller, J., Matzler, K., & Stieger, D. (2011).” Co-creation in virtual worlds: the design of the user experience”. MIS quarterly35(3), 773-788.

Nambisan, S., and Baron, R. A.  (2007).  “Interactions in Virtual Customer Environments:  Implications for Product Support and Customer Relationship Management,” Journal of Interactive Marketing (21:2), pp. 42-62

Nambisan, S., and Baron, R. A.  (2009).  “Virtual Customer Environments:  Testing a Model of Voluntary Participation in Value Co-Creation Activities,” Journal of Product Innovation Management (26:4), pp. 388-406

Nambisan, S., and Nambisan, P. (2008).  “How to Profit from a Better ‘Virtual Customer Environment,’” MIT Sloan Management Review (49:3), pp. 53-61