Cultivating Trust and Harvesting Value in Virtual Communities
Although previous scholars have examined the value of virtual communities to customers, in this study we investigate the role of a firm's efforts in cultivating trust and harvesting value for themselves via the virtual communities that they sponsor. We hypothesize that the perceptions of a firm's efforts to provide quality content, to foster member embeddedness, and to encourage interaction foster favorable customer beliefs about and trust in a virtual community sponsor. Further, we hypothesize that trust motivates customers to behave relationally toward the sponsoring firm by sharing information with, coproducing new products with, and granting loyalty to, the sponsoring firm. Data from 663 customers are analyzed using structural equation modeling techniques. We find that efforts to provide quality content and foster member embeddedness have positive effects on customer beliefs about the sponsor. In fact, fostering member embeddedness has a stronger explanatory effect on customer beliefs than does providing quality content. However, despite the fact that previous studies show that customers value interaction in virtual communities, our findings suggest that firms must do more than encourage interaction among their community members if they hope to create value from their virtual communities.
Volume (Year): 54 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
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