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Support while control: the influence of embeddedness on virtual community participation

Xiao Deng (Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing, China)
Bo Gao (School of Government, Peking University, Beijing, China)
Lei Chen (College of Economics and Management, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 12 June 2019

Issue publication date: 29 September 2020




Exploring the antecedents of members community participation is extremely important for virtual communities (VCs) research and practice. As an important social characteristic of individuals, social embeddedness has been proved as an important antecedent of many individual behaviors; however, few research has investigated the influence of virtual community members social embeddedness on virtual community members’ participation. To fill this gap, the purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between social embeddedness and community participation in VCs.


This paper conducted empirical study to test the hypotheses. Based on existing scales, this research designed the questionnaire and used a web-based survey to collect the data from VCs in China. To avoid the common method bias, this study collected data at two different times. The final sample included 96 virtual community members from seven communities (community size ranging from 10 to 25) of Baidu Tieba, which is the largest Chinese online communication platform. And this paper used regression models to analysis the data.


Based on social network theory, this paper found that virtual community members’ social embeddedness in their virtual community has a curvilinear (i.e. inverted U-shaped) effect on their community participation behaviors. And members’ perceived autonomy mediates the curvilinear (i.e. reversed U-shaped) relationship between social network embeddedness and community participation. Furthermore, member instability moderates the curvilinear (i.e. inverted U-shaped) main effect, such that the curvilinear relationship is weakened when member instability is high.


Departing from previous virtual community studies that examine antecedences of participation in linear logic, this study applied social network theory to create a complex, curvilinear, moderated mediation model. The result reveals a curvilinear (i.e. inverted U-shaped) relationship between virtual community members’ social embeddedness in the virtual community and their community participation. And this study also introduce autonomy as mediator and member instability as moderator. By testing the whole model between community members’ social embeddedness and community participation, this study contributes to deepen the understanding of social embeddedness and virtual community participation.



Deng, X., Gao, B. and Chen, L. (2020), "Support while control: the influence of embeddedness on virtual community participation", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 625-637.



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