The emergence of online community leadership

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Authors: Johnson, S.L., Safadi, H., Faraj, S.

Publication: Information Systems Research

Abstract Compared to traditional organizations, online community leadership processes and how leaders emerge are not well studied. Previous studies of online leadership have often identified leaders as those who administer forums or have high network centrality scores. Although communication in online communities occurs almost exclusively through written words, little research has addressed how the comparative use of language shapes community dynamics. Using participant surveys to identify leading online community members, this study analyzes a year of communication network history and message content to assess whether language use differentiates leaders from other core community participants. We contribute a novel use of textual analysis to develop a model of language use to evaluate the utterances of all participants in the community. We find that beyond communication network position-in terms of formal role, centrality, membership in the core, and boundary spanning-those viewed as leaders by other participants, post a large number of positive, concise posts with simple language familiar to other participants. This research provides a model to study online language use and points to the emergent and shared nature of online community leadership.

Read full article: Information Systems Research, March 2015