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Loyalty in Online Communities.

Author information

1
Stanford University.
2
Cornell University.

Abstract

Loyalty is an essential component of multi-community engagement. When users have the choice to engage with a variety of different communities, they often become loyal to just one, focusing on that community at the expense of others. However, it is unclear how loyalty is manifested in user behavior, or whether certain community characteristics encourage loyalty. In this paper we operationalize loyalty as a user-community relation: users loyal to a community consistently prefer it over all others; loyal communities retain their loyal users over time. By exploring a large set of Reddit communities, we reveal that loyalty is manifested in remarkably consistent behaviors. Loyal users employ language that signals collective identity and engage with more esoteric, less popular content, indicating that they may play a curational role in surfacing new material. Loyal communities have denser user-user interaction networks and lower rates of triadic closure, suggesting that community-level loyalty is associated with more cohesive interactions and less fragmentation into subgroups. We exploit these general patterns to predict future rates of loyalty. Our results show that a user's propensity to become loyal is apparent from their initial interactions with a community, suggesting that some users are intrinsically loyal from the very beginning.

PMID:
29354326
PMCID:
PMC5774975

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