Platform Sponsor's Investments and User Contributions in Knowledge Communities: The Role of Knowledge Seeding
Forthcoming in MIS Quarterly
48 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 8, 2017
How should platform firms engage with and invest in their online communities to shape knowledge contributions from community users? This is an important question because such user contributions are important drivers of technological progress and business value. We examine the effect of platform sponsors' investments in online communities on user knowledge contributions, by using fine-grained longitudinal data from a leading enterprise software vendor’s Internet-enabled community network. We focus on a particular form of the platform sponsor’s practice – knowledge seeding – through which the sponsor’s employees provide free technical support by answering questions posted in the discussion forums. We define user knowledge contribution as peer-evaluated, quality-weighted solutions offered by the community members to help resolve questions raised by their peers.
We find that platform sponsor’s knowledge seeding is significantly associated with user knowledge contribution. Interestingly, we also find temporal and geographical variations in the returns of sponsor knowledge investments. The return of platform sponsor’s knowledge investment – in terms of the amount of user contribution it stimulates – decreases with the age of the community, consistent with the observation that the most active contributors – the lead users – tend to join the community early. Our analyses also reveal that sponsor knowledge seeding yields varying returns across different countries, and the highest return is realized when the investment is made to countries with higher levels of IT infrastructure, perhaps due to the effect of the stronger absorptive capacity of these countries enabled by advanced IT capabilities. We discuss the implications for research and practice.
Keywords: knowledge community, knowledge contribution, sponsor investment, network of practice, enterprise software, IT value
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