Title

Value Creation in Virtual Communities: The Case of a Healthcare Web Site

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

11-1-2008

Abstract

Purpose: With the advent of the internet café, chat sessions, instant messengers, special interest e-groups and now blogs, people do not need to be physically close together to exchange their ideas. The participants can have shared experiences that are instantaneous and pretty much of the same nature that is usually realized by the traditional collection of special interest people in close proximity. The members of these virtual communities share their knowledge, cooperate with each other to solve problems, and feel responsibility for each other. Internet based technologies have been the great enablers of virtual communities. In the high-involvement healthcare sector, patients are increasingly seeking online advice and information by participating in virtual communities. The purpose of this paper is to understand the process of consumer value creation in virtual communities. Design/methodology/approach: This paper first adopts Cothrel's framework for the creation of value in virtual communities followed by an application of Kozinets' segmentation model of online consumers to explore the process of consumer value creation by a healthcare virtual community. "Netnography" was used as the research technique for this study. Netnography is an ethnographic research method adapted to the online environment. Discourse analysis is applied to interpret the huge volume of online postings. Findings: The paper identifies four segments of virtual community users - tourists, minglers, devotees, and insiders, and studies their online activities and discussion topics to demonstrate their differential roles as members of healthcare virtual communities. Originality/value: Most of the earlier works that are focused on virtual communities have been conducted at the conceptual level. In this paper a priori user segments in healthcare virtual communities are empirically profiled. Based on the findings, managerial implications for healthcare virtual communities are formulated.

DOI

10.1108/17506120810922358

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