The digital age: How SMEs use social media as a CSR communication tool to manage their legitimacy
This research explored how and why Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) use social media to communicate about their socially responsible activities in order to manage organizational legitimacy. This research was a qualitative multiple case study in which seven SMEs operating the food-industry were studied. Little was known about how SMEs communicate through social media about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Especially, in terms of how SMEs manage organizational legitimacy through social media. Other studies argued that Multinational Corporations (MNCs) use social media to communicate about their organizational efforts regarding sustainability, and thereby, secure their legitimacy. This research applied template analysis to analyse the seven interviews and documents. This abductive study reveals that SMEs do not see the need to communicate about their CSR activities on social media in order to manage their legitimacy. SMEs rather use social media to communicate about their daily practices and their knowledge regarding their products and industry. However, the daily practices of the SMEs participating in this research are intertwined with CSR related activities. Therefore, this research argues that these social media posts of SMEs are indirectly related to CSR. As a result, SMEs unconsciously use social media as a CSR communication tool to manage their legitimacy. This research thus contributes to the literature of legitimacy by stating that the CSR communication through social media within SMEs depends on their core activities. Furthermore, SMEs do not intend to manage their legitimacy by using social media as a CSR communication tool.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen