Enhancing Relationships Through Online Brand Communities: Comparing Posters and Lurkers
Sahar Mousavi and Stuart Roper
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 27, Number 1, 2023, pp. 66-99.
This study establishes the importance of considering both posters (interactive members) and lurkers (non-interactive members) for a clearer understanding of online brand communities. Based on organizational support theory and social identity theory, this study proposes a model a model that illustrates the impacts of perceived brand support in brands’ online communities upon members’ community identity and brand trust, leading to their positive behaviors toward the brand (i.e., purchase intention, resistance to negative information, and positive word of mouth) and how these effects differ between posters and lurkers. Using structural equation modeling, results reveal that in firm-hosted online brand communities, perceived brand support (i.e., recognizing contributions, encouraging interactions, and providing quality information) relates to members’ satisfaction by fulfilling their socioemotional needs (community identity) and increases their brand trust. Furthermore, multigroup analyses indicate significant differences in the paths to brand trust between posters and lurkers. Brand knowledge, providing quality information, and encouraging members to interact drive brand trust for lurkers. For posters, trust is driven by their sense of community identity and encouraging members to interact. This research advances the literature on online brand communities by shedding light on the scant knowledge of lurkers in online communities. It demonstrates how perceived support from brands can improve both posters’ and lurkers’ relationships with the community and the brand itself. The findings provide actionable managerial recommendations regarding how brands can manage their relationships with all members (both posters and lurkers) in their online communities.