Title: Understanding online communities on social networks via the notion of imagined communities: the case of Tripdvisor

Authors: Androniki Kavoura; Maria Teresa Tiago Borges

Addresses: Department of Marketing, Technological Educational Institute of Athens, Athens, Greece ' University of the Azores, San Miguel, Azores, Portugal

Abstract: This paper employs Anderson's imagined communities and their contributing elements that connect people - even if they have never met - to apply it to TripAdvisor, arguing that TripAdvisor has characteristics of an imagined community, a concept initially employed in defining nations but may well apply in the creation and maintenance of online communities. We aimed to examine in this exploratory study whether the characteristics of an imagined community such as the use of special language, the association of ideas, cohesion and membership, interaction and the presence of experts create an online community for TripAdvisor. Content analysis of tourist comments posted in TripAdvisor regarding top ten restaurants in Azores and Hawaii was performed over 2013. The coding was done by two coders and the unit of analysis was the tourists' posts. Final data composition derived from 686 customers that performed 813 reviews. TripAdvisor has all the characteristics of an imagined community. This is the first time that the concept of the imagined communities is applied in tourism studies and online communities, making a theoretical and practical contribution to the concept of imagined communities in the context of online travel communication through people's reviews.

Keywords: e-WOM; electronic WOM; word-of-mouth; online communities; TripAdvisor; online reviews; social networking sites; SNS; island destinations; online travel communication; virtual communities; web based communities; imagined communities; tourist comments; top restaurants; Azores; Hawaii; tourism studies.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2016.077759

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2016 Vol.12 No.3, pp.238 - 261

Received: 17 Sep 2015
Accepted: 18 Jan 2016

Published online: 14 Jul 2016 *

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