How do ‘big birds’ tweet about CSR? Exploring the corporate social responsibility communication characteristics and strategies of four large IT companies on Twitter

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The introduction of the internet and different social media enabled people to find and share almost anything, almost anywhere, with almost anyone. The ever-increasing diffusion of internet (Internet World Stats, 2017a; Internet World Stats, 2017b) and these social media (Statista, 2017a; Statista, 2017b) around the world make them useful broad-based tools for companies, whether it is to disseminate information or engage in a conversation with various stakeholders. Within the context of these changes in communication, people have grown to have social and ethical expectations of companies (Moreno & Capriotti, 2009). With this being the case, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a popular topic. CSR deals with ‘the continuous commitment by businesses to make proactive efforts to improve the quality of life of the community and society at large (both ecological and social)’ (Cho, Furey, & Mohr, 2017; World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 1999). To be successful and fulfill the expectations of stakeholders, communicating the CSR agenda and CSR efforts in the right way is key (Dawkins, 2005), bringing us to the importance of corporate CSR communication. Companies nowadays will have to engage in effective CSR communication to gain the trust and likes of the public, increasing image and reputation, ultimately ensuring corporate survival (Dawkins, 2005). In recent years, much has changed in the communication context, and social media bring both great potential as well as great challenges for corporate CSR communication. Previous studies have looked into CSR communication in social media (e.g. Capriotti, 2011; Colleoni, 2013; Etter, Plotkowiak, & Stanoevska-Slabeva, 2011), however, it is not clear how (large) companies use social media for CSR communication at this point in time. This is why this study investigated the situation and portrayed to what extent large multinationals use Twitter for CSR communication. The results suggest that these large multinationals perform well when it comes to CSR communication intensity, using interaction, and using sentiment in their CSR communication. However, the results show these large multinationals fall behind on the aspect of responsiveness in their CSR communication. These CSR communication characteristics make that the overall coordinated CSR communication strategy used is not ideal, and should be changed by companies improving their CSR communication responsiveness.
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