Title: Engagement in a newly launched online support community for complex regional pain syndrome: membership growth, header analysis and introductory messages

Authors: Richard M. Smedley; Neil S. Coulson; Jeff Gavin; Karen Rodham; Leon Watts

Addresses: Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK ' Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing, School of Medicine, Queen's Medical Centre, Room B113 Medical School, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK ' Department of Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK ' School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DF, UK ' Department of Computer Science, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK

Abstract: Several studies have investigated forum engagement, with a small but growing body of research focusing on the number of people using a forum (membership growth), how they use it (header analysis) and how they introduce themselves (introductory messages). Most studies use established forums and little is known about newly launched forums. This study examines engagement in a newly launched forum for complex regional pain syndrome. Results showed that membership growth occurred in bursts that were closely linked to promotional strategies. Header analysis showed the forum was used throughout the day, evening and night, with a focus on providing support as well as receiving it. Introductory messages took the form of disease stories with six themes: personal details, precipitating event, symptoms, treatment, living with CRPS, and reasons for joining. Implications and areas for future research are discussed.

Keywords: complex regional pain syndrome; CRPS; online support groups; patient interaction; membership growth; header analysis; introductory messages; thematic analysis; online communities; virtual communities; web based communities; forum engagement; user engagement.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2016.077259

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2016 Vol.12 No.2, pp.147 - 164

Received: 25 Nov 2014
Accepted: 30 Sep 2015

Published online: 24 Jun 2016 *

Full-text access for editors Access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article