Influence Mechanisms That Leverage Participation Quality in a Professional Virtual Community: The Social-Relationship Perspective

Influence Mechanisms That Leverage Participation Quality in a Professional Virtual Community: The Social-Relationship Perspective

Hung-Pin Shih (Department of Information Management, Hsuan Chuang University, Hsinchu City, Taiwan) and Echo Huang (Department of Information Management, National Kaohsiung First University of Science & Technology, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/JGIM.2015100104
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Despite the considerable attention paid to the determinants of participation (e.g., time spent and visit frequency) in professional virtual communities (PVCs), what and how to enhance participation quality have seldom been addressed. Participation quality is an affective outcome of social emotion for assessing the success of a PVC. By using the social-relationship perspective, this work develops a theoretical model based on relationship commitment and social psychology theories to examine how dedication-constraint mechanisms influence participation quality in a PVC. Empirical results of a PVC demonstrate that the dedication-based mechanisms (i.e. affective commitment and normative commitment) are more salient than the constraint-based mechanism (i.e. calculative commitment) to leverage participation quality. Additionally, identity-based attachment influences participation quality more than bond-based attachment does. Interestingly, the constraint-based mechanism positively affects identity-based attachment, yet negatively affects bond-based attachment to a virtual community.
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Emerging Internet technologies have changed the ways commercial activities are conducted, how individuals work, and how societies function. For example, Net-enabled organizations (e.g., virtual communities - VCs) are growing globally and profoundly affecting interpersonal relationships and communication modes, subsequently shifting the emphasis of information systems (IS) from internal to external focus (Straub & Watson, 2001). Rheingold (1993) defined VCs as “social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationship in cyberspace” (p. 5). This perspective characterizes VCs as Net-enabled websites that support online social interactions. Individuals participate in VCs to fulfill their social, entertainment, or commercial needs (Armstrong & Hagel III, 1996). VCs are composed of individuals with shared purposes and policies, and computer systems that facilitate information exchanges and social interactions (Preece, 2000). Professional virtual communities (PVCs) are VCs servicing the special purposes of sharing information and knowledge (Chen & Hung, 2010; Chiu, Hsu, & Wang, 2006), as well as fostering social interactions via online social networks (Koh, Kim, Butler, & Bock, 2007).

Participation can exhibit as help-giving behaviors among participants (Organ, 1988). Participation is “a process of taking part and also to the relations with others that reflect this process” (Wenger, 1998, p. 55). Participation in a community refers to how a participant engages in community activities and interacts with other members (Tsai, Huang, & Chiu, 2012). In sum, participation is essential for assessing the success of a community (Hew, 2009; Koh & Kim, 2004; Yoo, Suh, & Lee, 2002). Ren et al. (2012) assessed participation in VCs in terms of visit frequency and post views. Previous studies identified the factors that motivate knowledge contribution in electronic networks of practice (Kankanhalli, Tan, & Wei, 2005; Wasko & Faraj, 2005) and social interaction in online virtual networks (Cheung & Lee, 2009; Chiu et al., 2006). Participants can benefit from the participation in a PVC, owing to three logical inferences derived from customer participation (Merlo, Eisingerich, & Auh, 2014). First, high participation in a PVC can bond members more closely to the community than in the state of low participation. Second, participants who take part in a PVC are likely to revisit the website and, thus, having a higher volumes of visit frequency and/or view posting than that of non-participants. Third, participation is an effective means of providing more information cues than usage intention to predict community success (Koh et al., 2007).

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