Online health communities are designed to help their users acquire social support, but developing self-sustaining communities capable of providing that support requires long-term user retention. Therefore, understanding the factors early in a user’s experience that predicts their long-term retention is important. In this study, we explore the impact of short-term visitor engagement on long-term user retention. We study users of CaringBridge.org, an online health community for communicating about health journeys, using survival analysis methods to quantify the impact of engagement on retention. First, we explicitly compare the impact of non-text “likes” to text comments, surprisingly finding that likes exceed comments in their impact on retention for some users. Second, we compare less active and more active users in their response to visitor engagement, finding that more active users are less affected by short-term visitor engagement. We discuss the implications of our findings for the design of OHCs and for future work on visitor engagement.
Ruyuan Wan is a master's student in Data Science, advised by Professor Lana Yarosh, and Professor Maria Gini. Her research interests lie in the area of Human-Computer Interaction and Natural Language Processing. Her study “How much is a "like" worth? Engagement and retention in an online health community” was awarded as one of two outstanding posters at ACM - Computer Supported Cooperative Work(CSCW) 2020. She got her Bachelor in Statistics at UMN in 2018 and is going to graduate this May with M.S in Data Science and M.A in Linguistics.