Selecting an effective niche

  • Zhu H
  • Chen J
  • Matthews T
 et al. 
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Online communities serve various important functions, but many fail to thrive. Research on community success has traditionally focused on internal factors. In contrast, we take an ecological view to understand how the success of a community is influenced by other communities. We measured a community's relationship with other communities-its "niche"-through four dimensions: Topic overlap, shared members, content linking, and shared offline organizational affiliation. We used a mixed-method approach, combining the quantitative analysis of 9495 online enterprise communities and interviews with community members. Our results show that too little or too much overlap in topic with other communities causes a community's activity to suffer. We also show that this main result is moderated in predictable ways by whether the community shares members with, links to content in, or shares an organizational affiliation with other communities. These findings provide new insight on community success, guiding online community designers on how to effectively position their community in relation to others.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Online communities
  • Success
  • Topic overlap
  • Workplace

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  • Haiyi Zhu

  • Jilin Chen

  • Tara Matthews

  • Aditya Pal

  • Hernan Badenes

  • Robert E. Kraut

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