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This study investigates the social influence effects of social capital within virtual consumer communities on members’ attitudes towards the products that are being discussed within these communities. Since previous offline and online marketing studies primarily focused on consumer
attitude changes from an individual perspective, instead of integrating a view related to the social context, it examines the social influence processes of compliance, identification and internalization, and investigates how these influences emerge from the communities’ social system.
Data of 622 respondents gathered from five communities indicate that the communities’ social context can explain the development of these three social influences, and these interpersonal persuasion processes affect members’ product attitudes directly or indirectly in their turn. Internalization had the strongest effect on members’ product attitude changes, followed by compliance processes. Identification did not have a direct effect, but showed to have an indirect effect via compliance and internalization. Social capital proved to be a significant antecedent of all three influences. The community’s structural character only
influenced identification processes. The relations between the community members partly determined the emergence of identification and internalization processes, while a trusting relational setting negatively affected compliance processes. Cognitive social capital was an important antecedent for all three influence processes.