Understanding participation in company social networks

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Purpose - This article seeks to contribute to a better understanding of company social networks (CSNs), which constitute people connected to a company or brand through a social networking site. To this end, the research addresses both participation goals and CSN attributes that drive participation in CSNs. Design/methodology/approach - With a grounded theory approach, this research begins with an exploratory study of the page maintained by a large retailer for six months, followed by a qualitative study featuring in-depth individual interviews and focus groups with 26 members of the CSN. Findings - The results highlight differences between CSNs and other types of online communities (OCs). Members rely on the company to help them achieve their goals; few count on their CSN peers, with whom they maintain weak ties. Unlike in brand communities (BCs), most members are not enthusiasts but instead engage in a pragmatic relationship with the brand. Practical implications - CSNs can create value for both the host company and its members; active management is necessary to unlock that potential. The implications for CSN management include strategies to foster participation and increase value for companies and members. Originality/value - Although the previous research has studied OCs, specific research on CSNs is scarce. This study characterizes CSNs and provides details regarding participation factors in this new context, as well as relevant implications for CSN management and service research.