Exercising power through CSR communication on Facebook : Insights from the oil industry

University essay from Högskolan i Jönköping/HLK, Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap


Corporations are increasingly using social media as a tool for communicating Corporate Social Responsibility. Marketing researchers have conducted ample research on the topic, however, a communication perspective is missing. In order to fill this gap and gain a nuanced understanding of how corporations are communicating CSR and potentially enacting power relations, this thesis focuses on linguistic elements in CSR- related Facebook posts. A content analysis was performed on the Facebook pages of three oil corporations, covering a total of 120 posts. Results demonstrate that all three companies aim for engagement with the audience, using various semantic and sensory interactivity elements, and maintaining an informal writing style. Despite the latter seemingly contradicting the assumption that corporations are enacting power, there are elements that support this claim. The corporations implement a constraint of content in their posts through the use of abstract writing, and include a constraint on positions through the narrative styles of accounting and advertisement, which offer limited encouragement for participation. Regarding rhetoric, the ethos included in the posts carried significant interconnection with the CSR topics discussed, through which the companies seemed to enforce constraints of content. Shell and Total emphasize certain environmental issues, while not focusing on other impacts. BP does not not target environmental issues and mainly highlights positive social impact. Although the enactment of power is not present in each of the linguistic structures of the posts, there are elements that indicate the presence of power relations, which could offer groundwork for further research.

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