Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-018-0617-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Rebecca Hamilton served as Special Issue Guest Editor for this article.
Generating and maintaining consumers’ engagement in online brand communities is critical for marketing managers to enhance relationships and gain customer loyalty. In this research, we investigate how the type of signal used to indicate user reputation can enhance (or diminish) consumers’ community engagement. Specifically, we explore differences in perceptions of points (i.e., point accrual systems), labels (i.e., descriptive, hierarchical identification systems), and badges (i.e., descriptive, horizontally-ordered identification systems). We argue that reputation signals vary in the degree to which they can provide role clarity—the presence of user roles that deliver information about expected behaviors within a group. Across several studies, including a natural experiment using panel data, a survey of community members, and two controlled experiments, we show that signals that evoke a positive social role have the ability to drive greater engagement (i.e., creating discussions, posting comments, and future engagement intentions) than signals that do not provide role clarity. The effect is moderated by user tenure, such that new consumers’ engagement is particularly influenced by signal type. These findings have important implications for marketers as they use reputation signals as a strategic tool when managing online communities.