German, Austrian and Swiss utilities are confronted with radical changes in the European energy sector. A dialogue between the utility companies and their various groups of stakeholders is gaining importance. Increasingly, utilities create their own Facebook presence enabling such a dialogue. Still, to the best of the author’s knowledge there exists no research which explicitly focuses the stakeholder dialogue of German, Austrian or Swiss utilities on Facebook. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to analyse Facebook as an instrument for dialogic communication in the energy sector.
An online survey was distributed to 1,280 German, Austrian and Swiss utilities, and 14 per cent of the utilities completed the survey, including 130 German, 19 Austrian and 25 Swiss companies. The participating utilities are primarily in public ownership.
The Facebook conversation of utility companies and their stakeholders meets the basic requirements of a virtual stakeholder dialogue. Nevertheless, less than half of the companies perceive their current stakeholder conversation on Facebook as truly interactive. Therefore, even if the basic requirements of a dialogue are met, most companies still do not seem to fully use the dialogue potential of Facebook.
This study provides first insights into virtual stakeholder dialogues in the energy sector. A suggestion to operationalise such a virtual dialogue is provided. Both operationalisation as well as the empirical results help researchers and practitioners to better understand virtual stakeholder dialogues.
The author is grateful to Linda Tuttle Weidinger, B.A., instructor of English, University of Applied Sciences and University of Education, Linz, Austria, for her language assistance and proofreading. The author has disclosed that he has no significant relationship with or financial interest in any commercial companies pertaining to this article.
Martin, S. (2017), "Stakeholder dialogue on Facebook: Findings from German, Austrian and Swiss public utilities", International Journal of Energy Sector Management, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 257-267. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJESM-04-2016-0004
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