Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online

Authors

  • Catherine M. Ridings,

    Corresponding author
    1. An assistant professor of Business Information Systems in the College of Business and Economics at Lehigh University. Dr. Ridings received her Ph.D. in decision sciences (Management Information Systems specialization) from Drexel University. Her research interests include virtual communities, trust, knowledge management, and software development and adoption. She has published in journals such as Journal of Management Information Systems, The DATABASE for Advances in Information Systems, and the Journal of Strategic Information Systems. Dr. Ridings teaches in the areas of management of information in organizations, ecommerce, and databases. Prior to moving into academia, Dr. Ridings managed software developers building a large scale customer contact application for Bell Atlantic (presently Verizon Communications).
      Address: Management and Marketing Department, College of Business and Economics, Lehigh University, 621 Taylor Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Tel: (610) 758-5667, fax: (610) 758-6941.
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  • David Gefen

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Professor of Management Information Systems at Drexel University, where he teaches Strategic Management of Information Technology, Database Analysis and Design, and VB.NET. He received his Ph.D. in CIS from Georgia State University and a Master of Sciences in Management Information Science from Tel-Aviv University. His research focuses on psychological and rational processes involved in ERP, CMC, and e-commerce implementation management. David's wide interests in internet technology adoption stem from his 12 years of experience in developing and managing large information systems. David is a senior editor of The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems. His research findings have been published in MISQ, ISR, JMIS, JSIS, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, EM, The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems, Omega, JAIS, CAIS, and JEUC, among others. David is also first author of the textbook Advanced VB.NET: Programming Web and Desktop Applications in ADO.NET and ASP.NET.
      Address: Department of Management, Bennett LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, 32nd and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-2875. Tel: (215) 895-2148, fax: (215) 895-2891.
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Address: Management and Marketing Department, College of Business and Economics, Lehigh University, 621 Taylor Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Tel: (610) 758-5667, fax: (610) 758-6941.

Address: Department of Management, Bennett LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, 32nd and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA, 19104-2875. Tel: (215) 895-2148, fax: (215) 895-2891.

Abstract

Understanding the attraction of virtual communities is crucial to organizations that want to tap into their enormous information potential. Existing literature theorizes that people join virtual communities to exchange information and/or social support. Theories of broader Internet use have indicated both entertainment and searching for friendship as motivational forces. This exploratory study empirically examines the importance of these reasons in assessing why people come to virtual communities by directly asking virtual community members why they joined.

The responses to the open-ended question “Why did you join?” were categorized based upon the reasons suggested in the literature. Across 27 communities in 5 different broad types, 569 different reasons from 399 people indicated that most sought either friendship or exchange of information, and a markedly lower percent sought social support or recreation. The reasons were significantly dependent on the grouping of the communities into types. In all the community types information exchange was the most popular reason for joining. Thereafter, however, the reason varied depending on community type. Social support was the second most popular reason for members in communities with health/wellness and professional/occupational topics, but friendship was the second most popular reason among members in communities dealing with personal interests/hobbies, pets, or recreation. These findings suggest that virtual community managers should emphasize not only the content but also encourage the friendship and social support aspects as well if they wish to increase the success of their virtual community.

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