Individuals are increasingly turning to computermediated communication in order to get information on which to base their decisions. For instance, many consumers are using newsgroups, chat rooms, forums, e-mail list servers, and other online formats to share ideas, build communities and contact other consumers who are seen as more objective information sources (Kozinets, 2002). These social groups have been traditionally called virtual communities. The virtual community concept is almost as old as the concept of Internet. However, the exponential development of these structures occurred during the nineties (Flavián & Guinalíu, 2004) due to the appearance of the World Wide Web and the spreading of other Internet tools such as e-mail or chats. The justification of this expansion is found in the advantages generated by the virtual communities to both the members and the organizations that create them.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Virtual Community: A social group that use computer systems (e.g., Internet) to establish interactions among its members and where people discuss about a common interest around which the community is developed
Shared Values: In virtual communities, shared values refer to the extent to which the individual and the other members of the community have the same interests
Trust: the result of the assessment that one party makes of the credibility and goodwill of the other party of a relationship. It is formed by three different dimensions: honesty, benevolence and competence.
Virtual Community Reputation: The result of the community’s relational history with the context in which it functions
Satisfaction with the Virtual Community: A global evaluation or attitude made by the individual about the behaviour of the virtual community resulting from the interactions produced by both parties in the relationship
Communication: In virtual communities, communication refers to the formal and informal distribution of significant and updated information concerning the interest around which the community is developed
Security: The technical guarantees that ensure that the legal requirements and good practices with regard to privacy will be effectively met
Propensity to Trust: The generalised tendency of each individual to trust in others, regardless of who are the partner and the situation
Privacy: A set of legal requirements and good practices with regard to the handling of personal data