Exploring users' knowledge sharing intentions in firm-hosted commercial online communities

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School of Economics | Master's thesis
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Information Systems Science
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Research purpose and objectives The purpose of this study is to find out the factors affecting users’ knowledge sharing intentions in online communities. More specifically, the research context is firm-hosted commercial online communities for service support, in which the host firm’s customers interact to solve each other’s problems. The objective of the theoretical part is to provide understanding of the three main elements of the study: online communities, knowledge sharing and social exchange theory. The objective of the empirical part is to formulate a model and test it to examine the online community users’ knowledge sharing intentions. Consequently, based on the literature review, a conceptual research model is built and tested in the empirical part of the study. Methodology The study was conducted as an exploratory quantitative study. A conceptual research model utilizing social exchange theory was created based on earlier research. Benefit and costs factors affecting the knowledge contribution intention were identified through earlier literature on social exchange theory. To empirically explore the model, a questionnaire was designed, which was then run as an online survey on a large internet company’s web site for close to two weeks. The final sample for this study contains 199 self-reported responses from randomly selected survey respondents. After the data collection, statistical analyses were performed on the data. The main analytical method was factor analysis. Findings The findings suggest that the sharing activity itself and helping others is interesting, and the respondents benefit from the informational and instrumental value provided by the online community. Therefore, the perceived intrinsic benefits are the main motivators for users’ knowledge sharing intentions. In addition, the users do not act out of narrow self-interest, but feel moral obligation to give something back to the community. The most important individual drivers of the sharing intention in the context of firm-hosted commercial online communities for service support are enjoyment in helping others and purposive value, followed by reciprocity, enjoyment in influencing the host firm and knowledge self-efficacy. Additionally, effort as a cost factor is not a significant inhibitor of the knowledge sharing intention. Furthermore, the two-factor solution produced by the factor analysis supports the existence of the social exchange benefit and cost elements employed in the conceptual research model.
information networks, tietoverkot, information systems, tietojärjestelmät, knowledge, tieto, social media, sosiaalinen media
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