Research
16.07.18

Companies in the sharing economy benefit from effective online community management

Research by Johanna Mair and Georg Reischauer shows the importance of establishing successful practices to support value-creation strategies.

The study, "How Organizations Strategically Govern Online Communities: Lessons from the Sharing Economy," was written by Georg Reischauer and Johanna Mair of the Hertie School of Governance and will publish in the September edition of Academy of Management Discoveries.

With the sharing economy expected to grow by more than 2,000 percent by 2025 to $335 billion, effective management of online communities is increasingly important in identifying long-term business success and value creation.

Online communities are strategically important for companies in the sharing economy and core to how they create value. Members of these communities provide and request goods and services offered on online platforms. As consequence, managing online communities is a strategic imperative for survival and growth in the sharing economy.

The research looked at interviews, observations and data across 23 sharing economy companies in Berlin from February 2015 to December 2016. The selected companies included for-profit and non-profit organizations across two categories: Personal Service Sharing (allowing users to offer and receive labor such as maintenance or repairs) and Goods and Food Sharing (allowing users to share or give away small, tangible resources such as household tools, clothes or food). As a result, the researchers identified three distinct practices sharing economy companies use to manage online communities:

Scoping Community Boundaries: Encouraging user participation by setting boundaries around user interactions and defining the online community as a distinct social space for a given purpose.

Nudging Social Relations: Encouraging community engagement by promoting and highlighting user interactions outside of the defined online community (discussion forums or dashboards created by users or outsiders).

Steering Users: Exerting social control over user interactions by monitoring conversations and penalizing users who violate guidelines.

In addition to these practices, organizations encourage highly active users – ambassadors – to help support each community management practice and to establish and maintain the boundaries of the online communities. Ambassadors receive more rights than other users and help the organization act as both curator and manager of online communities.

"Managers of organizations with online communities should review our findings to help evaluate their existing practices," said Mair. "Our hope is those managers can determine which successful online community management practices apply to their organizations and, if necessary, make adjustments in order to support the organization's value-creation strategy."

This press release was originally published on aom.org.

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