The purpose of this paper is to develop a deeper understanding of how to promote members’ beneficial behaviors toward other members and toward the virtual community (VC). The authors extend Ray et al.’s (2014) framework by developing a more precise definition of community embeddedness, and determining how such embeddedness relates to social support and community engagement.
The authors test the proposed research model using data collected from 333 users of online social support communities/groups dedicated to sharing knowledge about pregnancy and child care. Partial least squares is used to analyze the measurement and structural models.
The study shows that embeddedness and engagement are significant determinants of willingness to help others and willingness to help the community. Embeddedness has a strong, positive effect on engagement. Social support positively affects community identification and embeddedness. However, community identification does not have a significant effect on engagement.
Some of the findings, such as the relative importance of embeddedness in fostering willingness to help the community and the relative importance of engagement in fostering willingness to help others, might not be generalizable to VCs where members join for fun and sharing interests.
Although knowledge contributors could self-derive some drivers of embeddedness and engagement, managers or hosts of VCs should develop strategies and mechanisms to provide or enhance the value they add to knowledge sharing and other beneficial behaviors, even though such added value might be largely intangible.
Social support plays an important role in shaping an individual’s embeddedness within a VC. Managers of VCs should develop strategies to stimulate exchanges of support among members.
The authors believe that community embeddedness plays a more important role than engagement in shaping the VC’s success and effectiveness. However, the extant VC literature has indicated a relatively weak understanding of the notion of community embeddedness. This study intends to fill that void.
Chiu, C.-M., Fu, C.-Y., Lin, W.-Y. and Chen, C.-F. (2019), "The central roles of embeddedness and engagement in virtual communities", Online Information Review, Vol. 43 No. 4, pp. 531-550. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-10-2017-0304Download as .RIS
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