Three essays on firm-hosted online user communities.

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Firms have been increasingly relying on building online user communities (OUCs) to access external, distant knowledge and expertise. In OUCs, participants – i.e., external product users and internal employees of the host firm – can interact with each other to discuss questions and evaluate ideas for existing product support and new product development. In this dissertation, I try to comprehensively study OUCs with three separate yet related essays focusing on different community entities – i.e., external product users and/or internal employees – in different contexts – i.e., online support communities (OSCs) for existing product support or online user innovation communities (OUICs) for new product development. The first essay focuses on the role of internal employees and investigates the innovation outcomes of employees participating in OUICs. The second essay focuses on both product users and host firm employees and examines the antecedents and consequences of employee-generated content in OSCs. In contrast, the third essay focuses on product users and examines a self-reinforcing spiral relationship between users’ social capital and knowledge contribution under a broader OUC context.

Online user communities. Innovation.