Bridging indistinct relationships and online loyalty has become an important strategy for online interest-based communities' operators and firms. The objective of this study is to draw on the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) to advance our understanding of the influences on the development of relationship quality and the consequent impact on members' loyalty to online communities.
To test the hypotheses the authors identified and selected four interest-based online communities in Taiwan. The online survey yielded 331 completed questionnaires from members of interest-based online communities and the authors analysed the results using the structural equation modelling approach.
The findings show that argument quality and source credibility positively affect members' perceived relationship quality, which has a positive and significant effect on behavioural loyalty, and personal relevance and user expertise positively moderate the relationship between argument quality and relationship quality and negatively moderate the relationship between source credibility and relationship quality.
While this study has produced meaningful insights for investigating the informational processing influences on relationship quality and subsequent behavioural loyalty through the ELM perspective, the samples may not allow researchers to draw more general conclusions across different types of community contexts. The data were collected only from interest-based communities. Examining this model across different types of online communities, such as transaction-, relationship-, or fantasy-based ones, would help establish the generalisability of these results beyond the current context.
The present study can help managers of online communities recognise the differential effects of these information processes across a user population and customise optimal strategies that best fit the unique characteristics of their community members. For making argument quality more convincing, Toulmin's (1958) model of argumentation could serve as an appropriate mechanism. Moreover it is crucial to provide various indicators of source credibility for information content.
The paper addresses a gap in the research by using ELM to better understand the influences on the development of relationship quality and the impact on members' loyalty. Understanding these dynamics is critical since it: enriches the relationship marketing and information management literature by addressing the role of information content in the management and success of online communities; helps online community managers customise optimal strategies for their members, thereby fostering members' loyalty and their platform's competitive advantage; and illuminates two influential processes that can achieve the desired attitude change in the context of online communities.
Chen, C.-D. and C.S. Ku, E. (2013), "Bridging indistinct relationships and online loyalty: evidence from online interest-based communities", Online Information Review, Vol. 37 No. 5, pp. 731-751. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-01-2011-0220Download as .RIS
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