Community-focused strategies in the sharing economy: an analysis of social identity dymanics and their improtance for peer-to-peer marketplaces - an AirBnB case study

Maria Francesca Staehle

Student thesis: Master thesis


Community-focused strategies have been developed and are being employed by companies as means to create relational links with communities of potential customers. The aim of those strategies is to create a competitive advantage by fostering customercompany identification through the company’s commitment to values contributing to (a development of) the community’s social identity. So far, these strategies have been considered for companies targeting existing communities with already established identities. This paper examines the relevance and applicability of community-focused strategies in the Sharing Economy, i.e. in a commercial peer-to-peer platform context. This context is especially interesting as the commercial nature as well as the fast scalability of platforms is likely to be detrimental to ‘community’. The study examines the issue by first studying the community dynamics of such a platform community- Airbnb. The explorative case study approach reveals that this user community is only bound by a weak cognitive social identity and by a sign value, i.e. being part of the Sharing Economy having gained an ideological value. Moreover, community values are mostly self-referent, driven by personal utility concerns. The high propensity of members to switch to alternative platforms implies a lack of loyalty that can be attributed to a lack of attachment to both, the community as well as the platform. Based on these findings and faced with current market developments in the Sharing Economy, this study argues for the importance of identification, especially through cognitive and affective social identity that lead to attachment and consequently loyalty. Faced with increasing competition, platform differentiation and a fragmentation of the market, attachment and loyalty are regarded as an important competitive advantage. By acknowledging post-modern consumer needs being not only driven by utilitarianism and functionalism, but also by fun and feelings, the need for personal identity creation and belonging, this study proposes community-focused strategies as a way to increase member attachment and loyalty in the Sharing Economy. It discusses different community-focused strategy approaches suited for differing platform strategies as well as their potential effects on platform dynamics.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages87