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NotificationsNotify me of updates to ARE CHAT ROOMS REPLACING CONVENTIONAL COMMUNITIES? pp. 117-128
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Authors:  Aviv Shoham, Graduate School of Management, Univ. of Haifa, Israel
This paper reports the results of a study of Internet chat rooms in Israel. Chat rooms
have grown tremendously over recent years and, as a phenomenon, could have important
implications for marketing scholars and practitioners. The paper uses a structured
qualitative methodology and is based on the author’s participative observations in Israeli
chat rooms over a period of two years. The main findings emerging from the observations
are that individuals spend time in such rooms because they provide numerous benefits
that parallel those accorded by non-virtual communities. Following Muniz and O’Guinn
(2001, p. 412), a chat room community is defined as a “specialized, non-geographically
bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships”. However, the
emphasis in chat rooms shifts from the common use of a brand, as in Muniz and
O’Guinn’s (2001) definition, to common users of the chat rooms in question.
Specifically, this paper identifies chat rooms as modern communities and highlights their
similarity to conventional communities. On-line chat rooms satisfy the conditions for
communities’ existence (Jones 1997), namely virtual common-public-space,
communicators’ variety, existence of a boundary for the virtual community, sustained
members’ stability and interactivity, interactivity of verbal messages, message directing
and targeting, interactivity in message content, action-simulating messages, and
nickname stability (Liu 1997). Two major managerial implications are drawn. First,
managers of Internet Service and Portal providers should account for chat rooms’
popularity. Sites that do not include chat room should incorporate them. Second, while
McAlexander, Schouten, and Koenig (2002) and Muniz and O’Guinn (2001) have shown
how brand communities are important to marketing managers, chat rooms can be used
differently than brand-related chat rooms. Specifically, chat rooms can be used to launch
a new product or service in line with the demographic composition of those in specific rooms. For example, a party in a nightclub can be described by, allegedly, an innocent
chatter, in a chat room of people in their 20s. 

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