Drivers of participation in online communities: An empirical study

Federica Nicastro

Student thesis: Master thesis


This paper aims at establishing the most important factors that have an impact on users’ participation in online communities, once they are already part of a community. The research starts with an analysis of the vast available literature on online communities. The literature offers many different angles that give interesting insights on participation, users’ motivations, and online communities’ dynamics. Then the analysis is carried on by an empirical study in two parts. The first part, a qualitative analysis, aims at getting a better understanding of the issue through two focus groups held with the founders of two online communities. The second, a quantitative analysis, aims at establishing the most relevant factors among the ones found in the qualitative study and in the literature, and at giving the study a greater validity. A list of 22 items that resulted relevant for participation in online communities was created. This list was transformed into statements that were tested through a survey administrated to 125 online communities’ users who were randomly selected. With the gathered data, a factor analysis was run to reduce the complexity and establish a lower number of most relevant factors. The result is a list of seven macro factors that were called social participation, technical participation, network of friends, characteristics of the community, extras, relationships with others, and interest in the content of the community. They together explained about 63% of the total variance, while social motivations represented the major driver of users’ participation with about 24% of variance explained. Furthermore, three groups of community users were identified through a cluster analysis: the extroverts, the learners, and the networkers. Once again the social component is the greatest; extroverts and networkers together represent 76% of the sample. This study confirms other researches’ findings about the relevance of social interactions in online communities, and the growing importance of social networks that have the only objective of establishing and maintaining relationships.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages138