A Little Help from My Friends: How Receiving Assistance Affects Participation in Online Knowledge-Sharing Communities

46 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2020

See all articles by Eunkwang Seo

Eunkwang Seo

Gies College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Frank Nagle

Harvard Business School

Sonali Shah

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date Written: August 24, 2020

Abstract

Online knowledge-sharing communities are important arenas for the development and exchange of knowledge; both firm participation and sponsorship in communities are increasing, as is scholarly interest in understanding how interactions between members shape subsequent participation. We contribute to this literature by examining the relationship between two increasingly relevant, yet underexplored, sets of factors: we examine the effects of with whom an interaction occurs (a user or an employee) on two types of participatory outcomes (future asking versus future replying). Specifically, we examine whether receiving a reply to a question––and from whom the reply is received––affects a new member’s likelihood of asking another question or replying to a question. We examine fifteen years of data from Statalist, the online community that formed around the Stata statistical software package. Our findings show that receiving a reply from another user is positively associated with future questioning, but negatively associated with future replying. However, receiving a reply from a firm employee is positively associated with future replying. To help address endogeneity concerns, we conducted qualitative interviews with Stata employees, used fixed-effects models, implemented an instrumental variable-based approach, utilized a two-stage Heckman selection model, and applied coarsened exact matching; the findings remain consistent. These findings suggest that social interactions play a key, albeit nuanced, role in shaping subsequent participation and the continued health of a community.

Keywords: online communities, knowledge development, innovation

Suggested Citation

Seo, Eunkwang and Nagle, Frank and Shah, Sonali, A Little Help from My Friends: How Receiving Assistance Affects Participation in Online Knowledge-Sharing Communities (August 24, 2020). Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 21-026, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3680076 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3680076

Eunkwang Seo

Gies College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.eunkwangseo.com

Frank Nagle (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Sonali Shah

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

Wohlers Hall
1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61822
United States

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