The era of globalization has increased the challenges for multinational corporations (MNCs) to retain legitimacy. In striving for legitimacy, MNCs increasingly engage in dialogue processes with their stakeholders. However, the era of globalization and the parallel rise of the Internet and the new “Web 2.0” have dramatically widened the range of options for such dialogue processes. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in particular make use of “social media” (e.g., Facebook, Weblogs, Twitter) which enable them to quickly generate attention regarding socially and environmentally harmful business practices by MNCs. In response, MNCs have started applying social media technologies for corporate communication purposes. However, given the novelty of these activities, we lack knowledge on how these organizations make use of social media. Therefore, in this chapter, we examine how MNCs and NGOs utilize one particular social media application, that is, Twitter, for dialogic stakeholder communication. In our empirical study, we examine current practices of Twitter usage by MNCs and NGOs. We investigate a dataset of more than 3,000 Twitter articles from 30 MNCs and 30 NGOs in the German-speaking world. Our analysis is based on the “conceptual orality or literality” scale by Koch and Oesterreicher (1994). The comparative analysis shows that on average MNCs and NGOs exhibit a surprisingly similar profile on Twitter. Both tend toward conceptual literality. However, the analysis of Tweets per organization reveals a much larger variance. At the extreme poles, while some NGOs (like Greenpeace Youth) make extensive use of the medium’s potential for conceptual orality, some MNCs (like Deutsche Börse) almost entirely adhere to conceptual literality. In other words, these MNCs promote a classical one-way model of communication and fail to make use of the dialogue-like qualities of the medium. We analyzed a small number of organizations and we restricted our study to MNCs and NGOs in the German-speaking world. Furthermore, Twitter only allows for short messages with a maximum of 140 letters or signs. This, in turn, renders questionable whether the medium is suited to establish deliberative dialogues between MNCs and NGOs that are based on more elaborate arguments which can be expressed in the short format. Our study addresses the lack of research regarding new possibilities for stakeholder communication in the age of social media. Moreover, the study methodologically contributes to the study of social media in the context of corporate communication by applying the scale of “conceptual orality or literality” to MNCs’ and NGOs’ Twitter usage.
Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability: Perspectives and Practice, 2014, p. 283-310
Main Research Area:
Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability