Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 30 Number 1 2013 pp. 261-292

A Test of Two Models of Value Creation in Virtual Communities

Porter, Constance Elise, Devaraj, Sarv, and Sun, Daewon

ABSTRACT: Does a firm get any extra value from investing resources in sponsoring its own virtual community above and beyond the value that could be created for the firm, indirectly, via customer-initiated communities? If so, what explains the extra value derived from a firm-sponsored virtual community and how might this understanding inform managers about appropriate strategies for leveraging virtual communities as part of a value-creating strategy for the firm? We test two models of virtual community to help shed light on the answers to these questions. We hypothesize that in customer-initiated virtual communities, three attributes of member-generated information (MGI) drive value, while in firm-sponsored virtual communities, a sponsoring firm's efforts, as well as MGI, drive value. Drawing on information search and processing theories, and developing new measures of three attributes of MGI (consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness), we surveyed 465 consumers across numerous communities. We find that value can emerge via both models, but that in a firm-sponsored model, a sponsor's efforts are more powerful than MGI and have a positive, direct effect on the trust-building process. Our results suggest a continuum of value creation whereby firms extract greater value as they migrate toward the firm-sponsored model.

Key words and phrases: attribution theory, co-creation, online communities, online trust, user-generated content, virtual communities