Online communities (OCs) have the potential to provide great benefits to society, but few have been successful in sustaining user participation. Although this subject has been studied from multiple angles, an under-explored topic is how an individual influences others to continue participation. This study adopts the theoretical concept of networked individualism to investigate a sustained OC, and employs a qualitative approach to social network analysis. We find that (1) a conversation “outsider” can be a specific knowledge “insider,” and (2) communication chit-chats can be important for strengthening networks. The findings reveal that an individual’s influence in an OC cannot be defined solely by the level of participation or the degree of involvement. Even if the presence of outsiders and chit-chats is minimal, participants perceive their value as both worthwhile and impactful. Communicators and discussion subjects in peripheral positions within communication networks can embody hidden influences that help sustain an OC.
Lee, Joyce Yi-Hui; Wang, Jhong-Heng; and Panteli, Niki, "Centrality or De-Centrality? Hidden Influences for Sustaining Online Communities" (2020). PACIS 2020 Proceedings. 140.
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