Initial Interpersonal Trust as a Tool to Commercialize Couchsurfing

Arune Blaziunaite

Student thesis: Master thesis


Reorganization to corporation in 2011 and venture investors’ backup, forces the management of Couchsurfing International to come up with a solution how to effectively monetize their user community. The author of this research proposes to look at this challenge from the perspective of initial interpersonal trust, as its presence among community’s users is essential for successful Couchsurfing operation and thus - creates value. Hence, understanding of how interpersonal trust is achieved in virtual community leads to the possible techniques of its commercialization.
This thesis specifically aims to ascertain what user profile’s trust inducing elements could be harnessed to commercialize the Couchsurfing platform. For that purpose, user profile elements impact on trust were tested according McAllister’s (1995) typology of cognitive and affective trust. The methods of data collection consisted of 16 exploratory interviews followed by quantitative survey that was completed by 184 respondents.
The results appeared to comply with described theories that affective trust is achieved by direct interaction and third parties’ references. However, it also enhanced this list with user provided personal photos and his/her presence on external social network account. Remaining profile elements appeared to impact cognition-based interpersonal trust, or not impact trust at all. The latter was especially unexpected concerning user verification status and section where user provides his personal characteristics.
One of the derived findings was that user profile elements, that does not impact interpersonal trust, are also important to the users’ decision making process, and therefore could also be used to monetize the platform. Overall, it resulted the proposition of six different ways of how provided content on Couchsurfing user’s profile could be made premium, if a freemium business model would be used to achieve the goal.
Future researchers are advised to build on this paper with normative research in order to clarify the best solution for Couchsurfing monetization.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages83