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22-05-2020 | Original Paper | Issue 2/2021

Journal of Business Ethics 2/2021

Explaining Viral CSR Message Propagation in Social Media: The Role of Normative Influences

Journal:
Journal of Business Ethics > Issue 2/2021
Authors:
Patrick Hartmann, Paula Fernández, Vanessa Apaolaza, Martin Eisend, Clare D’Souza
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Abstract

As companies increasingly communicate CSR initiatives through social media, viral message propagation has become a crucial prerequisite for CSR success. Evidence from two experimental studies, one based on a national representative online sample, shows that social media peers’ endorsement of a CSR message in terms of number of shares, likes and positive replies contributes to an individual’s intention to share it on the social network and thereby participate in message propagation, and that this process can be explained by normative influences exerted by the social media community through the activation of injunctive and descriptive norms, as well as social identity motives. Findings further confirmed that the norm-activating effects of social media endorsement are moderated by the empowering qualities of the CSR message, the sharing source of the message by affecting CSR credibility, and the recipient’s interdependent self-construal. Corporate communication managers are advised to achieve a high degree of initial social media endorsement of their CSR message, for recipients of the message to perceive social pressure motivating message sharing with their social media peers.

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