The capabilities and availability of automated communication solutions, such as chatbots, are constantly increasing. Thus, they can help companies to simplify and support structures and processes in both their internal and external corporate communications.Social bots have also often been discussed in the context of political communication - for example their use during election campaigns.
Do bots influence the social media communication of companies without companies even knowing it? And if so, how can companies identify and respond to social bots?
While social bots have been used several times to influence opinion-forming processes in a political context (e.g. during the lead-up to the Brexit referendum or during the US presidential election campaign), an academic discussion within the corporate context is still missing. For this reason, we want to look at companies as passive actors, analyzing the communication of bots about companies, and as active actors, examining companies’ interest to use bots for their own purpose. Hence, the research is divided into two phases in order to achieve significant results.
As part of the first phase, we will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the status quo of social bots in the corporate context. The aim is to explore the extent and relevance of the topic, focusing on the question of how social bots can influence communication about the company externally. In this context, companies are passive actors. The following questions will be considered:
For this purpose, we will analyze the communication related to the DAX30 companies. This will provide insights into the extent to which social bots exist today. The goal is to gain an overview of the relevance of social bots within social media communication about German companies.
Based on these results, the second part of the project will analyze how companies evaluate the active use of automated communication. The focus is not on how companies use social bots to spread messages on a massive scale, but rather how they use automated communication in a targeted manner (e.g. to answer requests from customers or journalists). The following key questions are addressed in qualitative interviews: