Exploring peripheral member engagement in a virtual health care professionals’ network




Ying, Ho-Wang Tom

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Peripheral members, or lurkers, make up the majority of membership in an online network, but not much is known about them as they are not publicly active (e.g. Post online). Data on the lurker population of Nurses and Health Care professionals in electronic Communities of Practice (eCoP) is also lacking. InspireNet was a British Columbia based virtual community that aimed to increase capacity for health services research for health care professionals. It had nearly 4000 members nationwide and it was an active community as users were posting on discussions and blogs daily. However, many members did not post online, so it was suspected a large lurker population existed. The purpose of the study was to conduct an exploratory study to understand the experience of lurkers on InspireNet and determine how nurses or health care professionals interacted, barriers to posting online, and whether or not they wished to remain a lurker Conventional content analysis was used as the methodology to conduct this qualitative study with 15 participants via online interviews. The results showed that lurking was not indicative of the level of engagement, as most were engaged in InspireNet content or were connected to other members (e.g. Core Members). Lurkers were not opposed to posting online, but required relevancy to their work and ease of using the website as prerequisites. Lurkers had difficulty finding information on the InspireNet website. It is important to engage all members of an online network. Strategies to engage lurkers include supporting their informational needs by improving website usability, incorporating advanced search features, and providing value (e.g. Relevant content, topics, and webinars).



peripheral member, lurker, virtual community, online community, eCoP