Can online buddies and bandwagon cues enhance user participation in online health communities?

Hyang Sook Kim, S. Shyam Sundar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Individuals are more likely to obtain information and support from online health communities than offer help to other users (Fox & Jones, 2009; Preece, Nonnecke, & Andrews, 2004). The current study attempts to resolve this problem of under-contribution by proposing two theory-based persuasive strategies - a specific request in the form of an online buddy and collective community feedback in the form of bandwagon cues. A 2 (online buddy: absence vs. presence) by 2 (bandwagon cues: weak vs. strong) between-participants experiment tested the effects of these strategies on psychological outcomes, including perceived responsibility, social presence, sense of community, and perceived helpfulness, as well as their posting attitudes, posting intentions, and website attitudes, across two sessions. Contrary to expectations, we found that the assignment of online buddies in a health community forum leads to negative psychological and behavioral consequences, especially in the absence of strong community feedback. Furthermore, the online buddy feature interacts with bandwagon cues to activate different cognitive processes, leading to differential interpretation of the meanings of those bandwagon cues - either as compliments (in the presence of online buddy) or as unreliable feedback (in the absence of online buddy). Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-333
Number of pages15
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Aug 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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