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   1 The Daimler-Blog – A Case Study An Analytical Approach to the Benefits of Corporate Weblogs with Respect to Company Intentions & Expectations Svenja H. Wilke   Universiteit van Amsterdam MSc European Communication Studies svenja_h_wilke@gmx.de  Abstract.  Companies are increasingly taking advantage of the high speed and flexibility of the internet to optimize their communication strategies. Most recently they have started to implement weblogs which allow communicating with a variety of stakeholders. Compared to other countries German companies are cautious in applying corporate weblogs to their communication repertoire. The Daimler AG is one of the few companies successfully hosting a lively weblog, which is attentively observed by the public. German and American studies, however, suggest that corporate blogs are not seen as particularly credible. This raises the question whether the Daimler-Blog improves the company’s reputation and whether its communication benefits from this  platform. Triangulating a systematic content analysis, qualitative interviews and an online survey its success was assessed and conclusions were drawn about its  benefits for the company. Keywords: Corporate Weblogs, Web 2.0, Google World, Social Media, Corporate Communication, Reputation, Human Voice, Dialogue, Authenticity 1.   Introduction  Nowadays, the internet with features such as e-mail, instant messenger, online news services and social software has become an important communication tool of everyday life. This online evolution, prominently called Web 2.0 , provides recipients with new power in communication processes. The flood of available information online allows anyone with Internet access to select information sources independently and individually. This has made many recipients much more critical towards institutions and companies. Consequently, the Internet offering personalized, low-cost communication combining reciprocity, transparency and service has become an important communication vehicle for most organizations. Weblogs hosted by organizations as a means of public communication providing flexibility and dialogue orientation are one of the youngest applications in the repertoire of corporate   2 communications. However, a predefined strategy is important for a corporate weblog to avoid negative consequences. Unfortunately, individual organizational structure does not allow a one-fits-all solution and measures for benefits of corporate blogs do not exist so far. With regard to this lack, the study summarized and presented here approached and measured the effectiveness of corporate weblogs. Those new insights may add to strategic considerations of companies and increase knowledge in practical communication research. The research was conducted as a case study of the  Daimler- Blog , the corporate weblog of the German vehicle manufacturer Daimler, 1  applying a three-step multi-methods design. The company is considered a pioneer in its hosting of a lively corporate weblog in the German blogosphere. The main foci of analysis were the organizational intentions and expectations tied to the corporate weblog, the structure of the medium and the benefits evolving from it for the company regarding the expected key benefits identified in advance. This strategy of performance measurement addressed and tested important key principals of corporate weblogs from the academic literature in order to validate or falsify their relevance. 2.   Theory The theoretical foundation of the case study comprised a basic understanding of Web 2.0 , weblogs  and the current shift of communication paradigms as well as a definition of corporate weblogs . These sections rely on the work of E. Fischer [23], Schmidt [61] and T. E. Fischer [24] which provide detailed overviews about weblogs, their emergence and functions. 2.1.   Web 2.0 & Weblogs Weblogs in general belong to the means of online communication compiled under the umbrella term social software  which is seen as a key-evolvement of Web 2.0 , the so called “new web” [24, p. 162]. Introduced by Tim O’Reilly in 2004, the latter term reflects the significant changes on the web which have evolved over the course of the last decade. O’Reilly observed that the initially one-sided communication and passive reception of ‘top-down’ content on the Internet, which was comparable to traditional mass media, slowly began to be replaced – or at least complemented – by applications allowing active participation and interaction [56]. These applications facilitate discussion, communication, building networks and publishing self-created content by means of simple interfaces which are easily understood and provide readily  programmed layouts for everyone to use. Since communication via social software channels is flexible in time and space, Web 2.0 stands for multidirectional, social interaction beyond physical borders and independent ‘micropublishing’ activities [18; 23; 47; 67]. Emphasizing the platform character of Web 2.0 communication tools, O’Reilly [56] focuses on user participation and reciprocity as a technological as well as social and societal phenomenon online. 1  A detailed corporate profile of the company is available on http://www.daimler.com/, retrieved February 14, 2010.   3 The emergence of weblogs has been part of the proceeding online revolution from the very beginning. In the meantime, they have become one of the most popular means of communication on the interactive web and have expanded from ‘geek’ logbooks to means of public discourse in political, journalistic and interpersonal communication. This evolvement indicates that the medium combines relevant qualities which led to its rapid and so far enduring success. But since the barriers for  participation in public discourse are low in this field content quality strongly depends on the authors’ efforts, interests, opinions or intentions. Information is often blended with personal opinions or subjective estimations which make weblog content unreliable at first glance. Nevertheless, subjectivity is not necessarily a disadvantage  but can also be an asset. Weblogs are a personal form of writing which features individual positioning combined with informative content. In this regard, the author’s  personality and human voice is highly authentic and serves as a measure for credibility that invites critical and constructive exchange, attracts an audience and evokes trust. As Sixtus [65] argues: “To infer the content of ‘weblogs’ from just one single blog is as acceptable as judging all paper media from leafing through a dime novel or a telephone book.” 2   T. E. Fischer [24, p. 171f.] defines the core constituents and additional characteristics of weblogs by the applied technology , the structure and the content  . His definition represents the basic understanding of weblogs in the presented study. Weblogs are personal or thematic news services which are published as webpages by means of easy content management systems, regularly updated with new entries and hyperlinked in multiple ways with other blogs and websites. Constitutive elements are the reversed chronological order of entries and the opportunity to post comments  provided for users. Based on the standardized software additional information (sounds, pictures, videos, text) can be embedded and sent to other users via standardized syndication formats. […] Additional characteristics of weblogs are the automatic storage of older contents in archives and the assignment of a distinct and  permanent URL to each entry that can be referred to, the so-called permalink. Furthermore, trackbacks belong to the constitutive elements of weblogs which allow a simple cross-reference to other weblogs at the push of a button. […] By means of ping each blog entry can automatically be announced to other services, such as RSS or other weblogs. Consequently, interactive interconnectedness of content is possible throughout the whole network. 3   In addition to this definition he mentions a list of strengths in comparison with traditional mass media: 4   ã   easiness to contact the author ã   demonstration of personal perspective ã   multifaceted and intense exchange of opinion ã   current commenting on events ã   entertainment value ã   up-to-dateness 2  Translation by the author. 3  Translation by the author. 4  Translation by the author.   4 He emphasizes the unfiltered condition of information which is controlled and enhanced in quality retrospectively as the main difference to traditional information services. Based on this definition the impact and developments that have emerged from weblogs as new communication media are discussed subsequently. 2.2.   The Blogosphere: Changes in Public Communication As a highly connective medium weblogs build a continuously evolving, nonlinear network of hyperlinks, cross-references, trackbacks and interactive exchange: the so-called blogosphere , which reflects societal trends such as individualization, transition to higher flexibility, multimedia-based communication and entertainment. This results in a fundamental change of traditional communication structures, since ‘top-down’, ‘one-to-one’ and ‘one-to-many’ communication models are losing validity in the global, horizontal and diverse environment of Web 2.0. As visualized in figure 1 they are replaced by network models depicting ‘many-to-many’ communication that allows multidirectional, reciprocal exchange between individuals and groups at any time [12; 20; 58]. Fig. 1.  Classic- and network-communication structures [58, p. 108f.; translation by the author] According to Stone [68, p. 221] blogs have ‘kickstarted’ hyperconnectivity in communication and they are “the spark of life that the internet was missing.” Through Web 2.0 platforms recipients and consumers are increasingly gaining a voice in public communication and are turning around the ‘pyramid of influence’ from the bottom up. Peter Hirshberg, Executive Vice-President of Technorati , describes this shift of  paradigms regarding weblogs as follows: Because bloggers blog simply because they want to they are passionate, opinionated, enthusiastic and they appreciate being listened. In many respects, this is a far more genuine, broad-based and conversational form of communications than ever existed in the era of trade publications and mainstream media [20, p. 6]. Classic Communication Model Network-Communication K = communicator R = recipient ge3 ETC. = participants

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Jul 23, 2017
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