The Impact of Symbolic Award Introductions on Contribution Behavior in Online Communities

Alexander Staub, Christopher Ulrich Lettl, Tom Grad

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Online communities frequently suffer from the under-contribution of knowledge in terms of both quantity as well as quality. A common method to incentivize contribution behavior by members is the use of non-monetary rewards, more specifically performance contingent symbolic awards. However, a nuanced understanding of how performance contingent symbolic awards affect existing community members that differ in their experience, and by extension propensity to contribute, is currently lacking. In this paper we exploit a natural experiment, analyzing a user-week panel data set of 166,000 observations, spanning 48 weeks and over 3000 community members, and show a negative effect of award introduction on contribution quantity and an insignificant effect on contribution quality on average. Moreover, we are able to show how accounting for heterogeneous user characteristics in terms of within-community experience, govern the effect of award introduction and knowledge accumulation. In particular, we find that low experience members significantly reduce their contribution quality while not changing their contribution amount, and high experience members reduce their contribution quantity without decreasing their contribution quality. Thus, this research contributes to the theory on new forms of organizing, in addition to advancing the literature on symbolic awards and online public goods contributions

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-second Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonja Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022: Creating a Better World Together - Seattle, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20229 Aug 2022
Conference number: 82


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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