Motivational Drivers of Content Contribution to Company- Versus Consumer-Hosted Online Communitiesby Karin Teichmann, Nicola E. Stokburger-Sauer, Andreas Plank, Andreas Strobl

Psychology & Marketing


Applied Psychology / Marketing


Motivational Drivers of Content

Contribution to Company- Versus

Consumer-Hosted Online Communities

Karin Teichmann, Nicola E. Stokburger-Sauer, Andreas Plank, and Andreas Strobl

University of Innsbruck


This research investigates the effect of the type of community host (consumer-hosted versus company-hosted communities) in the relationship between motivational drivers and content contribution to online communities. By presenting a typology of motivational drivers of content contribution and classifying prior research on motivational drivers accordingly, this article offers an integrated, in-depth literature review. Four motivational self- versus other-oriented and extrinsic versus intrinsic drivers were included in an empirical study of three online communities, with more than 800 community members. The results reveal that opinion leadership, self-presentation, and enjoyment positively affect content contribution; altruism negatively affects content contribution. In company-hosted online communities, the positive drivers are stronger than in consumer-hosted online communities. To encourage members’ contribution, community managers should seek to attract opinion leaders, provide room for self-presentation, and enhance members’ feelings of pleasure and comfort. A qualitative post hoc analysis also explicates the negative effect of altruism.

Overall, this study provides a fruitful basis for several important theoretical and managerial implications. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

To succeed, online communities must develop a solid member base that contributes interesting content (Williams & Cothrel, 2000). Early research on drivers of participation in online communities primarily focused on technological factors (e.g., Godwin, 1994); later, customers’ expectations of values and benefits derived from participation were investigated (e.g., Dholakia, Bagozzi, & Pearo, 2004;

Nambisan & Baron, 2007). Motivational drivers of content contribution to online communities include, for instance, self-development, reputation, enjoyment, and commitment (Nov, Naaman, & Ye, 2010), learning, social-integrative, personal-integrative, and hedonic benefits (Nambisan & Baron, 2007), as well as purposive value (giving/receiving information), selfdiscovery, interpersonal connectivity, social enhancement, and entertainment (Dholakia, Bagozzi, & Pearo, 2004).

Online communities are understood as networks in which online interactions are “based upon shared enthusiasm for and knowledge of a specific consumption activity or a related group of activities” (Kozinets, 1999, p. 254). Much prior research emphasizes online communities hosted by commercial firms (e.g., Jeppesen & Frederiksen, 2006; Nambisan & Baron, 2007) and refers to them variously as company-hosted (Nambisan & Baron, 2007), organization-/firm-sponsored (Porter, Devaraj, & Sun, 2013), or company-initiated (Porter, 2004; Jang, Olfman, Ko, Koh, & Kim, 2008) communities. These “online aggregations of customers who collectively coproduce and consume content about a commercial activity that is central to their interest by exchanging intangible resources” (Wiertz & de

Ruyter, 2007, p. 349) usually aim to promote the firm’s products or brands (Adjei, Noble, & Noble, 2010).

Well-known examples include the communities hosted by Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, or Dell, which seek to engage customers in the value creation process by providing technical support, recommendations, and information (Pagani, Hofacker, & Goldsmith, 2011).

Other companies initiate online communities that are not explicitly related to the brand, but rather offer peerto-peer problem solving for consumption experiences (e.g., Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum for travelrelated questions; Mathwick, Wiertz, & de Ruyter, 2008).

Yet the majority of online communities arise when individual members come together to discuss different self-relevant issues and develop networks of community relationships (Ridings, Gefen, & Arinze, 2006).

Psychology and Marketing, Vol. 32(3): 341–355 (March 2015)

View this article online at © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/mar.20783 341

These constitute consumer-hosted (e.g., Jang et al., 2008) or member-initiated (Porter, 2004) communities, such as, to which more than onequarter of a million members contribute information related to cycling and mountain biking. Following prior studies (e.g., Jang et al., 2008; Mun˜iz & O’Guinn, 2001;

Nambisan & Baron, 2007), the current research uses this hosting distinction to classify two types of online communities: company- versus consumer-hosted.

The type of community host in turn affects members’ participation behavior in a community. Porter,

Devaraj, and Sun (2013) find that member-generated information drives participants’ trust, information sharing, and word-of-mouth behavior significantly, but the relevance of this driver diminishes in companyhosted communities. Rather, a firm’s efforts to provide quality content stimulate participants’ embeddedness and enable interactions to become more important determinants of participants’ trust and contribution behavior (Porter, Devaraj, & Sun, 2013). Yet Porter,

Devaraj, and Sun (2013) do not test the various drivers simultaneously or in a joint model, but rather use separate models for the different communities. Most empirical investigations of online communities concentrate on either company-hosted (e.g., Jeppesen &

Frederiksen, 2006; Stokburger-Sauer, 2010) or consumer-hosted (e.g., Hemetsberger & Reinhardt, 2009) communities. The few empirical studies that investigate both types generally indicate that the host affects interaction outcomes (e.g., information quality, commitment), but they do not test for influences on content contribution (Adjei, Noble, &

Noble, 2010; Jang et al., 2008; Porter, Devaraj, & Sun, 2013).

Equity theory (Adams, 1965) offers explanations for the potential differences across communities. That is, consumers in online communities evaluate the equity of their exchange (i.e., exchange fairness) according to the actors that are relevant to the evaluation. In consumer-hosted online communities, members’ perceptions of exchange fairness depend on a balanced distribution of inputs provided by other community members. In company-hosted online communities, exchange fairness instead depends on the inputs provided by the firm, in addition to those of other community members. The company benefits substantially from content and traffic provided by members (Nambisan & Baron, 2007), so consumers likely emphasize the inputs provided by the company when assessing fairness in the exchange. These expected differences, related to the community host, resulted in the leading research question: How does the type of community host affect the motivational drivers of content contribution?