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School of Business | Department of Marketing | Marketing | 2015
Thesis number: 13914
Participation in professional communities: antecedents and outcomes of interpersonal exchange
Author: Kajan, Jukka
Title: Participation in professional communities: antecedents and outcomes of interpersonal exchange
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Marketing
Academic subject: Marketing
Index terms: markkinointi; marketing; verkostot; networks; yhteisöt; communities; virtuaalitodellisuus; virtual reality; viestintä; communication; asiantuntijat; specialists; yhteistyö; cooperation
Pages: 93
Full text:
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Key terms: participation in communities, professional communities, virtual communities, knowledge sharing, knowledge management, social exchange, cooperation in business networks, netnography
Objective of the study:

The aim of this thesis is to build a comprehensive understanding of professional communities and the dynamics within. This will be done by first examining the antecedents of knowledge sharing between professionals and then focusing to the outcomes of such activity. In addition, the practices of participation focusing on what is shared, where and how, are analyzed. By choosing these approaches the intention is that the thesis would give a good view on the role that the peers and partners in professional communities have when succeeding with career and tasks. In accordance with the exploratory take on this thesis, the purpose is not to form strict generalizations, but rather a solid understanding of the phenomenon. Academically the objective is to approach knowledge sharing with a novel angle by taking it to the professional context. In addition, this thesis aims to contribute to the literature of business networks by bringing a perspective of individual to the analysis.

Research method:

Two distinct methods for gathering data were employed. Semi-structured interviews were used to cover the meanings that professionals give for professional communities. This data was complemented by using netnographic methods. The interaction between professionals was observed in virtual communities non-obtrusively in its natural setting. The data was analyzed by using procedures of open coding. The data was first conceptualized and then categorized by comparing the characteristics and properties of the concepts.


This thesis provides findings about the premises directing behavior in professional communities. In addition, the research detects the benefits achievable in professional communities and points out how those are exploited. The major finding is that the positions of participants in professional communities affect the perceptions and behavior regarding knowledge sharing the most. This means that informal interaction between representatives of competitors is hindered and open knowledge sharing frozen by rule. In contrary, knowledge sharing may be extremely fruitful between professionals working in different industries. Consequently, avoiding conflicts with company interest is the major barrier for participation. The results of the thesis suggest that with the help of knowledge gained and social capital derived from professional community one can increase efficiency of performance, business possibilities, career opportunities and individual social power. In addition, the contacts with peers can form a safety net decreasing the future risks. The findings suggest that people often opt out from professional interaction because of the possibility to lose valuable knowledge and therefore competitive advantage. However, it is argued that exchanging information may be beneficial if it is given organizational justification. By exploiting the benefits efficiently both individual and the company can receive value.
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