The analysis of social capital in online social communities

Chiu, Wei-Yi (2011) The analysis of social capital in online social communities. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Social networks have proven to be an attractive avenue of investigation for researchers since humans are social creatures. Numerous literature have explored the term “social networks” from different perspectives and in diverse research fields. With the popularity of the Internet, social networking has taken on a new dimension. Online social communities therefore have become an emerging social avenue for people to communicate in today’s information age. People use online social communities to share their interests, maintain friendships, and extend their so-called circle of “friends”. Likewise, social capital, also known as human capital, is an important theory in sociology. Researchers usually utilise social capital theory when they investigate the topic relating to social networks. However, there is little literature that can provide an explicit and strong assertion in that research area due to the complexity of social capital.

This thesis therefore focuses on the issue related to providing a better understanding about the relationship between social capital and online social communities. To enhance the value within the scope of this analysis, an online survey was conducted to examine the effects of the dimensions of social capital: relational capital, structural capital, and cognitive capital, determining the intensity of using online social communities. The data were derived from a total of 350 self-selected respondents completing an online survey during the research period. The main results indicate that social capital exists in online social communities under normal circumstances.

Finally, this thesis also presents three contributions for both theory and practice in Chapter 5. The main results contribute to the understanding of connectivity in the interrelationships between individual social capital exchange within online social networks. Secondly, social trust was found to have a weak effect in influencing the intensity of individuals using online social communities. Third, the perpetual role of information sharing has an indirect influence on individual users participating in online social communities. This study also benefits online marketing consultants as marketers can not only gain consumer information easier from online social communities but also this understanding assists in designing effective communication within online social communities. The cross-sectional study, the reliability of Internet survey data, and sampling issues are the major three limitations in this research. The thesis provides a new research model and recommends that the mediating effects, privacy paradox, and social trust on online social communities should be further explored in future research.

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ID Code: 46995
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Luck, Edwina & Mathews, Shane
Keywords: online social networks, online communities, social capital
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 14 Nov 2011 02:52
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2011 02:52

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