Assistant Professor, MIS
Fox School of Business, Temple University
November 30, 2012
Speakman Hall 200, 1000am – 1100am
Seminar Title : The strength of words online: Emergent leadership in online communities
Compared to traditional organizations, online communities lack formal power or leadership positions. Instead, leadership in online communities is an emergent process resulting from influencing others. The objective of this paper is to investigate how network structure and language usage lead to influence in online communities. Communication online occurs almost exclusively through written words. The study of online influence has been dominated by a focus on structural network position with surprisingly little research addressing how the comparative use of language shapes community dynamics. Using participant surveys to identify influential members, this study analyzes a year of network history and message content to identify if leader utterances have unique qualities compared to the utterances of other core community members. Analysis supports the conclusion that online leadership derives from more than network position; it is also associated with distinctive written communication patterns. The composite view of emergent leaders in online communities is: they are in a central, core position in a network; they concentrate participation in fewer message threads than others; and, they provide a large number of positive, concise posts that include an above average number of external links and use simple language familiar to other participants. Online community leaders emerge through both the context and content of online communication.
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