February 18, 2014

The Role of Founders in Building Online Groups

ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW)

By: Robert Kraut, Andrew Tresolini Fiore


As a class, online groups are popular, but many die before they become successful. This research traced the fate of 472,231 new online groups. By the end of a 3-month observation period, 57% of the groups had died, ceasing to post new content. Founders’ human and social capital before the group was formed, the decisions they made when they created the group and their behavior in the group during its first week all predicted group survival. Many of the results suggest that founders create more successful groups if they have more resources (e.g., more online friends) and opportunities for acquiring relevant skills (e.g., more experience with online groups) and are more active in their group. However, founders who are too controlling seem to present a threat their groups. Their groups are more likely to fail if they are the only group administrator, if they have ties to all group members and if they were responsible for adding all group members.