Abstract

Finding access to new information and scarce resources has always been a challenge for entrepreneurs (Dubini & Aldrich, 1991; Stuart & Sorenson, 2007). Responding to this challenge, online communities of entrepreneurs (OCEs) have emerged in various digital platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and WeChat (major mobile social network in China). Little is known about the mechanism of how entrepreneurs obtain and exchange useful information in such an environment that members are largely strangers among themselves (Faraj & Johnson, 2011). To fill the gap we aim to understand two important research questions: (1) Is online networking different from physical networking? (2) Do tie strength and trust matter in OCEs? By adopting theories of social network, social exchange and interpersonal communication, we suggest that entrepreneurs’ networking in OCEs and physical network has significant difference in the creation of their social relationships. Specifically, entrepreneurs obtain lower levels of tie strength as well as benevolence-based trust, higher level of competence-based trust in OCEs than in physical network. Further more, tie strength mediates the link between benevolence-based trust and information transfer.

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