Keep them alive! Design and Evaluation of the “Community Fostering Reference Model”

  • Ulrich Bretschneider
  • Marco Hartmann
  • Jan Marco Leimeister
Research Paper


Firms host online communities for commercial purposes, for example in order to integrate customers into ideation for new product development. The success of these firm-hosted online communities depends entirely on the cooperation of a high number of customers that constantly produce valuable knowledge for firms. However, in practice, the majority of successfully implemented communities suffers from stagnation and even a decrease of member activities over time. Literature provides numerous guidelines on how to build and launch these online communities. While these models describe the initial steps of acquiring and activating a community base from scratch very well and explicitly, they neglect continuous member activation and acquistion after a successful launch. Against this background, the authors propose the Community Fostering Reference Model (CoFoRM), which represents a set of general procedures and instruments to continuously foster member activity. In this paper, the authors present the theory-driven design as well as the evaluation of the CoFoRM in a practical use setting. The evaluation results reveal that the CoFoRM represents a valuable instrument in the daily working routine of community managers, since it efficiently helps activating community members especially in the late phases of a community’s lifecycle.


Online communities Community management Activation of community members Reference model 

Supplementary material

12599_2017_500_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (153 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 153 kb)


  1. Akerlof GA (1970) The market for “lemons”: quality uncertainty and the market mechanism. Q J Econ 84(3):488–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amabile TM (1996) Creativity in context: update to “the social psychology of creativity”. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  3. Amabile TM, Conti R, Coon H, Lazenby J, Herron M (1996) Assessing the work environment for creativity. Acad Manag J 39(5):1154–1184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Antorini YM, Muñiz AMJ, Askildsen T (2012) Collaborating with customer communities: lessons from the Lego Group. MIT Sloan Manag Rev 53(3):73–79Google Scholar
  5. Bateman PJ, Gray PH, Butler BS (2010) Should I stay or should I go: the role of referrals on online community member turnover and tenure. In: ICIS 2010 Proceedings, St. Louis, 12–15 Dec 2010Google Scholar
  6. Bateman PJ, Gray PH, Butler BS (2011) The Impact of community commitment on participation in online communities. Inf Syst Res 22(4):841–854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker J, Beverungen D, Knackstedt R, Glauner C, Stypmann M, Rosenkranz C, Schmitt R, Hatfield S, Schmitz G, Eberhardt S, Dietz M, Thomas O, Walter P, Lönngren H-M, Leimeister JM (2009) Ordnungsrahmen für die hybride Wertschöpfung. In: Thomas O, Nüttgens M (eds) Dienstleistungsmodellierung: Methoden, Werkzeuge und Branchenlösungen. Physica, Berlin, pp 109–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benlian A, Titah R, Hess T (2010) Provider- vs. user-generated recommendations on e-commerce websites—comparing cognitive, affective and relational effects. In: ICIS 2010 Proceedings, St. Louis, 12–15 Dec 2010Google Scholar
  9. Blohm I, Leimeister JM, Rieger M, Krcmar H (2011) Controlling von Ideencommunities—Entwicklung und Test einer Ideencommunity-Scorecard. Controlling: Zeitschrift für erfolgsorientierte Unternehmenssteuerung 23(2):98–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blohm I, Leimeister JM, Krcmar H (2013) Managing open innovation communities: development and test of an innovation community scorecard. In: Garcia Martinez M (ed) Open innovation in the food and beverage industry: Concepts and case studies. Woodhead, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Boulding W, Kirmani A (1993) A consumer-side experimental examination of signaling theory: do consumers perceive warranties as signals of quality? J Cons Res 20(1):111–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bressler SE, Grantham EG Sr (2000) Communities of commerce. McGraw-Hill, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  13. Bretschneider U (2012) Die Ideen-Community zur Integration von Kunden in den Innovationsprozess: Empirische Analysen und Implikationen. Gabler, WiesbadenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bretschneider U, Leimeister JM, Mathiassen L (2015a) IT-enabled product innovation: customer motivation for participating in virtual idea communities. Int J Prod Dev 20(2):126–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bretschneider, U, Hartmann, M, Leimeister, JM (2015b) Fostering ideation among patients: exaptation of web-based ideation platforms as health 2.0 tools for virtual patient communities. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2015), Dec 13–16, 2015, Fort Worth, TexasGoogle Scholar
  16. Brickman P, Sorrentino RM, Wortman CB (1987) Commitment, conflict, and caring. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  17. Butler B (2001) Membership size, communication activity, and sustainability: a resource-based model of online social structures. Inf Syst Res 12(4):346–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Butler B, Sproull L, Kiesler S, Kraut R (2002) Community effort in online groups: who does the work and why? In: Weisband S, Atwater L (eds) Leadership at a distance. Lawrance Erlbaum, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  19. Bygstad B, Nielsen PA, Munkvold BE (2005) Four integration patterns: IS development as stepwise adaptation of technology and organziation. In: ECIS 2005 Proceedings, Regensburg, 26–28 May 2005Google Scholar
  20. Chau M, Shiu B, Chan I, Chen H (2007) Redips: backlink search and analysis on the web for business intelligence analysis: research articles. J Assoc Inf Sci 58(3):351–365Google Scholar
  21. Chen H, Chiang RHL, Storey VC (2012) Business intelligence and analytics: from big data to big impact. Manag Inf Syst Q 36(4):1165–1188Google Scholar
  22. Crowston LW, Li Q, Wei K, Eseryel H, Howison J (2007) Self-organization of teams for free/libre open source software development. Inform Softw Tech 49:564–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Deg RM (2009) Basiswissen public relations: professionelle Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, WiesbadenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Delfmann P (2006) Adaptive Referenzmodellierung: Methodische Konzepte zur Konstruktion und Anwendung wiederverwendungsorientierter Informationsmodelle. Logos, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  25. Delfmann P, Becker J (2008) Referenzmodellierung: Grundlagen, Techniken und domänenbezogene Anwendung: Grundlagen, Techniken und domänenbezogene Anwendung. Physica, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  26. Demil B, Lecocq X (2006) Neither market nor hierarchy nor network: the emergence of bazaar governance. Organ Stud 27(10):1447–1466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Duncombe R, Molla A (2006a) E-commerce development in developing countries—profiling change-agents for SMEs. Int J Entrep Innov 7(3):85–196Google Scholar
  28. Duncombe R, Molla A (2006b) SMEs and ecommerce in developing countries: frameworks for assessing the role of change agents. Development Informatics—Working Paper Series, Institute for Development Policy and Management, ManchesterGoogle Scholar
  29. Erchul WP, Raven BH (1997) Social power in school consultation: a contemporary view of french and raven’s bases of power model. J School Psychol 35(2):137–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Eseryel UY, Eseryel D (2013) Action-embedded transformational leadership in self-managing global information systems development teams. J Strateg Inf Sys 22:103–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Faraj S, Jarvenpaa SL, Majchrzak A (2011) Knowledge collaboration in online communities. Organ Sci 22(5):1224–1239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Faraj S, Kudaravalli S, Wasko M (2015) Leading collaboration in online communities. Manag Inf Syst Q 39(2):393–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fischer E, Bristor J, Gainer B (1996) Creating or escaping community? An exploratory study of Internet consumers’ behaviors. Adv Consum Res 23:178–182Google Scholar
  34. Franke N, von Hippel E, Schreier M (2006) Finding commercially attractive user innovations: a test of lead user theory. J Prod Innovat Manag 23(4):301–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Freund J, Rücker B, Henninger T (2010) Praxishandbuch BPMN: Incl. BPMN 2.0, 3rd edn. Carl Hanser, MünchenGoogle Scholar
  36. Füller J, Matzler K, Hoppe M (2008) Brand community members as a source of innovation. J Prod Innovat Manag 25(6):608–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Geddes C (2011) Achieving critical mass in social networks. J Database Market Cust Strat Manag 18(2):123–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Goldenberg J, Han S, Lehmann DR, Hong JW (2009) The role of hubs in the adoption process. J Marketing 73(2):1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Goodsell TL, Williamson O (2008) The case of the brick huggers: the practice of an online community. City Commun 7(3):251–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Greer BG (2000) Psychological and support functions of an e-mail mailing list for persons with cerebral palsy. CyberPsychol Behav 3(2):221–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hallerstede S, Bullinger A, Möslein K (2012) Design and Management of web-based innovation communities: a lifecycle approach. In: AMCIS 2012 Proceedings, Seattle, 9–11 Aug 2012Google Scholar
  42. Hartmann M (2014) Lean on Diffusion theory to make ideas-communities fly—the case of DATEV. In: ECIS 2014 Proceedings, Tel Aviv, 9–14 June 2014Google Scholar
  43. Hartmann M, Bretschneider U, Leimeister JM (2012a) Making patients to innovators—the case of the Ideenschmiede. In: R&D Management Conference 2012 Proceedings, Grenoble, 23–25 May 2012Google Scholar
  44. Hartmann M, Bretschneider U, Leimeister JM (2012b) Establishing online communities—only trial & error? In: XXIII ISPIM Conference 2012, Barcelona, 17–20 June 2012Google Scholar
  45. Hayes AF, Krippendorff K (2007) Answering the call for a standard reliability measure for coding data. Commun Meth Meas 1:77–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hoffmann A (2014) Anforderungsmuster zur Spezifikation soziotechnischer Systeme—Standardisierte Anforderungen der Vertrauenswürdigkeit und Rechtsverträglichkeit. Kassel University Press, KasselGoogle Scholar
  47. Holgersson J, Karlsson F (2012) Understanding business employees’ conditions for participating in public e-service development. In: ECIS 2012 Proceedings, Barcelona, 10–13 June 2012Google Scholar
  48. Huang Y, Singh PV, Ghose A (2010) Show me the incentives: a dynamic structural model of employee blogging behavior. In: ICIS 2010 Proceedings, St. Louis, 12–15 December 2010Google Scholar
  49. Hutter K, Hautz J, Füller J, Mueller J, Matzler K (2011) Communitition: the tension between competition and collaboration in community-based design contests. Creat Innov Manag 20(1):3–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Iriberri A, Leroy G (2009) A life-cycle perspective on online community success. ACM Comput Surv 41(2):1–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kamel Boulos MN, Wheeler S (2007) The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education. Health Inf. Libr J 24(1):2–23Google Scholar
  52. Klein A, Krcmar H (2003) Electronic Meeting Systems Paradox—Hindernisse für den Einsatz funktionierender Technik und Ansätze zu ihrer Überwindung. WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK 45(4):421–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Krippendorff K (2004) Content analysis: an introduction to its methodology, 2nd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  54. Kristensson P, Gustafsson A, Archer T (2004) Harnessing the creative potential among users. J Prod Innovat Manag 21(1):4–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lakhani KR, von Hippel E (2003) How open source software works: “Free” user-to-user assistance. Res Policy 32:923–943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Leimeister JM, Krcmar H (2006) Community-Engineering: systematischer Aufbau und Betrieb Virtueller Communitys im Gesundheitswesen. WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK 48(6):418–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Leimeister JM, Ebner W, Krcmar H (2005) Design, implementation, and evaluation of trust-supporting components in virtual communities for patients. J Manag Inf Syst 21(4):101–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Leimeister JM, Huber M, Bretschneider U, Krcmar H (2009) Leveraging crowdsourcing: activation-supporting components for it-based ideas competition. J Manag Inf Syst 26(1):197–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Leonard-Barton DA (1988a) Implementation as mutual adaptation of technology and organization. Res Policy 17(5):251–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Leonard-Barton DA (1988b) Implementation characteristics of organizational innovations: limits and opportunities for management strategies. Commun Res 15(5):603–631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lewandowski D (2005) Web searching, search engines and information retrieval. Inf Serv Use 18(3):137–147Google Scholar
  62. Lin HF (2007) The Role of online and offline features in sustaining virtual communities: an empirical study. Internet Res 17(2):119–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Loyarte E, Rivera O (2007) Communities of practice: a model for their cultivation. J Knowl Manag 11(3):67–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ma M, Agarwal R (2007) Through a glass darkly: information technology design, identity verification, and knowledge contribution in online communities. Inf Sys Res 18(1):42–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Markus ML (1987) Toward a “critical mass” theory of interactive media: universal access, interdependence and diffusion. Commun Res 14(5):491–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Meyer JP, Allen NJ (1991) A three-component conceptualization of organizational commitment. Human Res Manag Rev 1(1):61–89Google Scholar
  67. Moon JY, Sproull L (2001) Turning love into money: How some firms may profit from voluntary electronic customer communities. In: Lowry P, Cherrington J, Watson R (eds) Electronic commerce handbook: issues, technology and society. CRC, PortlandGoogle Scholar
  68. Müller S, Goswami S, Krcmar H (2011) Monetizing blogs: revenue streams of individual blogs. In: ECIS 2011 Proceedings, Helsinki, 9–11 June 2011Google Scholar
  69. Nambisan S, Baron RA (2009) Virtual customer environments: testing a model of voluntary participation in value co-creation activities. J Prod Innovat Manag 26:388–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Oestreicher-Singer G, Zalmanson L (2013) Content or community? A digital business strategy for content providers in the social age. MIS Q 37(2):591–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Oliver PE, Marwell G (2001) Whatever happened to critical mass theory? A retrospective and assessment. Sociol Theory 19(3):292–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. O’Reilly T (2007) What Is web 2.0: design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Int J Digit Econ 65:17–37Google Scholar
  73. Prandelli E, Verona G, Raccagni D (2006) Diffusion of web-based product innovation. Cal Manag Rev 48(4):109–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Prasarnphanich P, Wagner C (2011) Explaining the sustainability of digital ecosystems based on the wiki model through critical-mass theory. IEEE Transact Indust Electron 58(6):2065–2072CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Preece J (1999) Empathy online. Virtual Real 4(1):74–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Preece J (2000) Online communities: designing usability, supporting sociability. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  77. Preece J, Shneiderman B (2009) The reader-to-leader framework: motivating technology-mediated social participation. AIS Transact Human-Comput Interact 1(1):13–32Google Scholar
  78. Probst F, Grosswiele L, Pfleger R (2013) Who will lead and who will follow: identifying influential users in online social networks. Bus Inf Syst Eng 5(3):179–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Raban DR, Moldovan M, Jones Q (2010) An empirical study of critical mass and online community survival. In: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work, Savannah, 6–10 Feb 2010Google Scholar
  80. Rabe A (2012) Bezahlte Artikel—Eine Möglichkeit Geld zu verdienen. In: Addis Techblog. Accessed 7 July 2014
  81. Rajagopalan B (2014) Design considerations for virtual communities. In: Leimeister JM, Rajagopalan B (eds) Virtual communities. Advances in management information systems (AMIS) 20, M.E. Sharpe, ArmonkGoogle Scholar
  82. Ramanathan S (2003) Critical Mass attainment in e-business trading communities. In: AMCIS 2003 Proceedings, Tampa, 4–6 August 2003Google Scholar
  83. Ramanathan S (2004) Operationalizing critical mass as the dependent variable for researching the diffusion of emarketplaces. Its implications. In: Proceedings of the 17th Bled eCommerce Conference eGlobal, Bled, 21–23 June 2004Google Scholar
  84. Ransbotham S, Kane GC (2011) Membership turnover and collaboration success in online communities: explaining rises and falls from grace in wikipedia. MIS Q 35(3):613–627Google Scholar
  85. Ren Y, Harper FM, Drenner S, Terveen L, Kiesler S, Riedl J, Kraut RE (2012) Building member attachment in online communities: applying theories of group identity and interpersonal bonds. MIS Q 36(3):841–864Google Scholar
  86. Ridings CM, Gefen D, Arinze B (2002) Some antecedents and effects of trust in virtual communities. J Strateg Inf Syst 11(3–4):271–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Rogers EM (2003) Diffusion of innovations, 5th edn. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  88. Sandy C, Christian B (2000) A model of factor influences on electronic commerce adoption and diffusion in small-and medium-sized enterprises. In: PACIS 2000 Proceedings, Hong Kong, 1–3 June 2000Google Scholar
  89. Schaefer C (2008) Motivations and usage patterns on social network sites. In: ECIS 2008 Proceedings, Galway, 9–11 July 2008Google Scholar
  90. Schuff D, Turetken O, Asif Z (2010) Designing Systems that support the blogosphere for deliberative discourse. Trans Hum -Comput Interact 2(3):351–365Google Scholar
  91. Schütte R (1998) Grundsätze ordnungsmäßiger Referenzmodellierung: Konstruktion konfigurations- und anpassungsorientierter Modelle. Gabler, WiesbadenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Sharma R, Yetton P (2001) The contingent effects of management support and task interdependence on successful IS implementation: a meta-analysis. In: ECIS 2001 Proceedings, Bled, 27–29 June 2001Google Scholar
  93. Sneath JZ, Finney RZ, Close AG (2005) An IMC approach to event marketing: the effects of sponsorship and experience on customer attitudes. J Advert Res 45(4):373–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Spence M (1973) Job market signaling. Q J Econ 87(3):355–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Stieglitz S (2008) Steuerung virtueller communities—instrumente, mechanismen. Wirkungszusammenhänge, Gabler, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  96. Thompson S, Brown D (2008) Change agents intervention in e-business adoption by SMEs: evidence from a developing country. In: AMCIS 2008 Proceedings, Toronto, 14–17 August 2008Google Scholar
  97. Valente TW, Rogers EM (1995) The origins and development of the diffusion of innovations paradigm as an example of scientific growth. Sci Commun 16(3):242–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. von Hippel E, von Krogh G (2003) Open source software and the “private-collective” innovation model: issues for organization science. Org Sci 14(2):209–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Wenger E, McDermott R, Snyder WM (2002) Cultivating communities of practice. Harvard Business School, BostonGoogle Scholar
  100. Wiener Y (1982) Commitment in organizations: a normative view. Acad Manage Rev 7(3):418–428Google Scholar
  101. Wiertz C, de Ruyter K (2007) Beyond the call of duty: why customers contribute to firm-hosted commercial online communities. Org Stud 28(3):347–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Wohlfeil M, Whelan S (2006) Consumer motivations to participate in marketing-events: the role of predispositional involvement. Eur Adv Consum Res 7:125–130Google Scholar
  103. Young B, Takeda H, Cuellar MJ (2011) Investigating the Impact of offline events on group development in an online sports community. In: SAIS 2011 Proceedings, Atlanta, 25–26 MarchGoogle Scholar
  104. Yukl GA (2006) Leadership in organizations, 6th edn. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  105. Zhu J, Tan B (2007) Effectiveness of blog advertising: impact of communicator expertise, advertising intent, and product involvement. In: ICIS 2007 Proceedings, Montreal, 9–12 Dec 2007Google Scholar
  106. Zhu H, Kraut RE, Kittur A (2013) The impact of membership overlap on the survival of online communities. In: ICIS 2013 Proceedings, Milan, 16–20 June 2013Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrich Bretschneider
    • 1
  • Marco Hartmann
    • 1
  • Jan Marco Leimeister
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Chair for Information SystemsKassel UniversityKasselGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Information ManagementUniversity of St. GallenSt. GallenSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations