How Online Communities work: Why do people join Online Communities? – Part 1

large__6798184016For brands that consider investing in online communities, it is very important to first understand the basic needs that people fulfil by participating in an online community. “Identifying the needs of community members that create their intrinsic motivation for contributing to the community is crucial”, says Porter (113). Satisfying social and psychological needs motivates people to engage in a variety of social media platforms and online communities. Both the “social and psychological aspects of community members’ needs and their motivations to satisfy those needs are consistent with the notion that community members are trying to achieve both communal (for example helping/supporting other people) and functional (for example information seeking, contributing information) goals” (Jawecki and Muhlbacher 60).

Desire

Companies seeking for consumer engagement should understand that engagement is motivated intrinsically, based on the value created when companies help community members fulfil their needs with their online communities. However, they should realize that different community members will try to fulfil different needs at different times. Value-based motivations for participation, as a core foundation for customer engagement, are “idiosyncratic, experiential, contextual, and meaning-laden, depending on an individual member’s need” (Vargo and Lusch 23). This means that organizations should target their community efforts properly according to the different needs of the community members at different times. This will help them to accelerate and intensify customer engagement with their online community. In section 3.3 the extrinsic factors that companies should consider to motivate consumers to participate and engage in their communities will be discussed. I will describe how organizations can foster and sustain engagement regarding their online community.

Porter et al. listed “several needs (social and psychological) that community members fulfil via online communities” (8). I decided to put them into a visual model (see figure below). I think that this model captures the essence of the needs that members fulfil via online communities.

Model: Needs That Members Fulfill In An Online Community

Needs

Although this figure gives a clear view on what members needs fulfil, it does not indicate which needs first should be satisfied. Which needs are more important than others? We know that members will try to fulfil different needs at different times. But is there a model that will help understand what needs people first trying to satisfy in an online community? Luckily, there is. Read part two to find out!

Until next time,

Anne-Sophie Gaspersz

Photo credit: Johan Larsson via photopin cc

Photography: Johan Larsson

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