Social capital in an online brand community
: Volkswagen in China

  • Cui Li

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Over the past ten years, mainly as a result of developments in digital technology and social media, academics and practitioners have become more interested in communities. The number of studies investigating online brand communities (OBCs) has been increasing with most attention being paid to the characteristics, functions and benefits associated with OBCs. However, an important aspect of OBCs has been overlooked, which is the contribution of social capital to the communities and the impact on brands. This research seeks to fill this gap by developing an understanding of social capital in order to assist marketers to utilise OBC more effectively.

This study investigates the use of social capital in two ways: firstly, to examine the presence of social capital in OBCs; and secondly, to examine the potential impact of social capital on brand knowledge. Accordingly this study is deductive in nature, using a web-survey approach. Thirty-five Volkswagen consumer-initiated OBCs were involved in the survey which was selected from in China.

This study finds that both social capital and brand knowledge constructs have a high level of reliability and validity, which indicates their presence within consumer initiated OBCs. Further, a significant causal relationship is found between social capital and brand knowledge. In particular, each dimension of social capital exerts differential effects upon brand knowledge. The findings are an original contribution to social capital theory and OBC studies and they are also important for brand owners and community leaders who wish to develop and implement OBC strategies.

Date of AwardJul 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorColin Wheeler (Supervisor), Gill Christy (Supervisor) & Lillian Clark (Supervisor)

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