Explaining social exchanges in information-based online communities (IBOCs)

Sabine Benoit (née Moeller) (Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Nicola Bilstein (Ingolstadt School of Management, Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Ingolstadt, Germany)
Jens Hogreve (Ingolstadt School of Management, Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Ingolstadt, Germany)
Christina Sichtmann (Department of Business Administration, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Publication date: 15 August 2016



The purpose of this paper is to scrutinize platforms for members to exchange information by information-based online communities (IBOCs, like LinkedIn or Facebook). Because member participation is vital for IBOCs, this research aims to identify and validate factors that drive member participation.


With reference to social exchange theory the authors developed a model of antecedents of participation in IBOCs that was tested with survey data using PLS. Because some of the results contradicted the theory, the authors examined those results in a mainly qualitative study with online community providers. These experts offered explanations that inform the discussion and managerial implications.


Role clarity, provider’s responsiveness, and enjoyment all influence member participation. Contrary to theory, the cooperation of other members affects member participation negatively while a member’s ability shows no effect.

Practical implications

This research has several implications for IBOC providers. Because ability does not affect participation directly, providers do not need to worry about lacking ability and can effectively target all potential members. The importance of provider responsiveness signals that IBOC providers should proactively monitor members’ compliance with social norms to lower the social risk for members. The impact of community-specific knowledge and enjoyment on participation puts emphasis on careful community design and the thoughtful implementation of new features that might enhance enjoyment, but reduce role clarity.


Whereas most of the participation literature focusses on a dyadic relationship, the research investigates the triadic relationship in which the provider is only an enabler of exchange. Furthermore, the authors bring together two streams of the literature: the participation literature, which tends to focus on offline participation; and the online community literature, which has not yet investigated participation. This is also the first paper to investigate nonlinear effects on participation.



Benoit (née Moeller), S., Bilstein, N., Hogreve, J. and Sichtmann, C. (2016), "Explaining social exchanges in information-based online communities (IBOCs)", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 460-480. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-09-2015-0287

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.