Virtual users support forum: Do community members really want to help you?

Alessandro Gabbiadini, Silvia Mari, Chiara Volpato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The survival of a virtual community is guaranteed by the users' creation of content. However, the literature has found that the percentage of users who create innovative content is very modest. The content contribution process can also be interpreted as a social collective action in which we-intentions play a primary role. Nevertheless, some people choose not to participate in the collective action, but to benefit from the community's resources and to maximize individual outcomes. In this study (N=250), we investigated the effects of the free-riding tendency, conceived as the willingness to maximize personal outcomes. The specific setting was a virtual support forum, the most common type of web platform, generally used instrumentally by web users to find information and solutions to specific problems. We used the theory of planned behavior theoretical framework, plus social influence variables to test the effect of the free-riding tendency as a drawback for contributions, considering both the role of individual and we-intentions on the observed behavior. Findings showed that neither we-intentions nor I-intentions predicted the actual contribution behavior. Both types of intentions and contribution behavior were negatively influenced only by the free-riding tendency construct. Considerations and future developments of these results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-292
Number of pages8
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Applied Psychology
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Social Psychology
  • Medicine(all)


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