Platform Sponsor's Investments and User Contributions in Knowledge Communities: The Role of Knowledge Seeding

48 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2017  

Peng Huang

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business

Ali R. Tafti

University of Illinois at Chicago

Sunil Mithas

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business

Date Written: February 8, 2017

Abstract

How should platform firms engage with and invest in their online communities to shape knowledge contributions from community users? This is an important question because such user contributions are important drivers of technological progress and business value. We examine the effect of platform sponsors' investments in online communities on user knowledge contributions, by using fine-grained longitudinal data from a leading enterprise software vendor’s Internet-enabled community network. We focus on a particular form of the platform sponsor’s practice – knowledge seeding – through which the sponsor’s employees provide free technical support by answering questions posted in the discussion forums. We define user knowledge contribution as peer-evaluated, quality-weighted solutions offered by the community members to help resolve questions raised by their peers.

We find that platform sponsor’s knowledge seeding is significantly associated with user knowledge contribution. Interestingly, we also find temporal and geographical variations in the returns of sponsor knowledge investments. The return of platform sponsor’s knowledge investment – in terms of the amount of user contribution it stimulates – decreases with the age of the community, consistent with the observation that the most active contributors – the lead users – tend to join the community early. Our analyses also reveal that sponsor knowledge seeding yields varying returns across different countries, and the highest return is realized when the investment is made to countries with higher levels of IT infrastructure, perhaps due to the effect of the stronger absorptive capacity of these countries enabled by advanced IT capabilities. We discuss the implications for research and practice.

Keywords: knowledge community, knowledge contribution, sponsor investment, network of practice, enterprise software, IT value

Suggested Citation

Huang, Peng and Tafti, Ali R. and Mithas, Sunil, Platform Sponsor's Investments and User Contributions in Knowledge Communities: The Role of Knowledge Seeding (February 8, 2017). Forthcoming in MIS Quarterly; Robert H. Smith School Research Paper No. RHS 2913581. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2913581

Peng Huang (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States

Ali R. Tafti

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

601 S Morgan St, 2403 University Hall, MC 294
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

Sunil Mithas

University of Maryland - Robert H. Smith School of Business ( email )

​Van Munching Hall
7699 Mowatt Ln
College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sunilmithas.com/

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