Behavior Toward Newcomers and Contributions to Online Communities
30 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2021 Last revised: 23 Nov 2023
Date Written: August 16, 2023
In this paper, we study whether and how behavior toward newcomers impacts their socialization outcomes in online communities, such as retention and quality of contributions. Intuitively, more positive interactions should help newcomers adjust to the new environment, but the effect could be driven by endogenous responses: people interested in the community have an intrinsic propensity to participate, while their posts receive more positive responses from existing members. By exploiting a natural experiment on a large deal-sharing platform, we find that an intervention that reminds people to be more considerate to newcomers causes newcomer deals to receive 54% more comments with a more positive sentiment. In turn, we find that newcomers are 4% more likely to post another deal, suggesting an increase in retention. However, we do not observe any effect on the quality of subsequent contributions. Our evidence suggests that the intervention merely caused a temporary shock to the first contributions of newcomers, but failed to improve learning or motivate greater effort. We draw implications for the design of socialization processes to help communities improve the retention and performance of newcomers.
Keywords: Online communities, newcomers, socialization, natural experiment
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