Diagnostic and prescriptive benefits of consumer participation in virtual communities of personal challenge
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to show how active participants within personal challenge virtual communities (e.g. virtual health communities, online legal forums, etc.) derive learning benefits from their involvement within the community. In doing so, the research conceptualises and tests a model of engagement within such virtual communities. Design/methodology/approach: This research was conducted through the design of a survey administered to an online panel of active participants from several virtual health communities. Structural equation modelling was used to test the conceptual model. Findings: Along with well-researched concepts such as social identification, this research identifies diagnostic and prescriptive benefits as key learning benefits associated with active participation within personal challenge communities. These benefits drive social support which individuals attain from these virtual communities, which, in turn, drives engagement within the community. It is also found that anticipated negative emotions from leaving the community mediate social support and engagement. Originality/value: This is one of the first studies to develop a model of consumer engagement with personal challenge virtual communities. The findings make a contribution to the field of online communities by showing how learning benefits (diagnostic and prescriptive) transpire within these communities and how these benefits lead to greater community engagement.