Membership claims and requests: Conversation-level newcomer socialization strategies in online groups

  • Burke M
  • Kraut R
  • Joyce E
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Abstract

Early socialization experiences have a long-term impact on newcomers’ satisfaction, performance, and intention to stay in a group. We know that newcomers proactively shape their own socialization, but we know little about the behavioral tactics they employ, or how the words they choose affect their acceptance by the group. The present article highlights three common conversational strategies of newcomers to online groups: (a) group-based membership claims, in which newcomers describe initial participation in the group; (b) identity-based membership claims, in which they describe their similarity to the group’s focal social category; and (c) information requests, in which they ask for help. Using machine learning to identify these conversational strategies automatically in 12,000 newcomers’ messages to approximately 100 online groups, we find that they are correlated with increased group responsiveness. We follow this analysis with two controlled field experiments to demonstrate that when individuals attest to previous group participation and make specific requests for information, community responsiveness increases, but claims of shared identity with the group have no impact.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Computer-mediated communication
  • Newcomer socialization
  • Online communities

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