Outside-In Constructions of Organizational Legitimacy: Sensitizing the Influence of Evaluative Judgments Through Mass Self-Communication in Online Communities

Deike Schulz, Jan Jonker, Niels Faber


This article aims to further the current discussions in organizational studies about the construction of organizational legitimacy. We examine the influence of mass self-communication—in particular, evaluative judgments, such as product reviews, made by citizens in online communities—on the construction of organizational legitimacy. We chose an interdisciplinary approach in which we evaluated 177 studies from the field of organizational and communication science, relying on organizational legitimacy and mass self-communication as combined theoretical backbones. Our analysis revealed three sensitizing concepts: (1) community-mediated constituency, (2) audience engagement dilemmas, and (3) influencer-generated legitimacy. Based on these sensitizing concepts, we discuss outside-in (audience- or influencer-driven) and inside-out (company-driven) perspectives on the construction of organizational legitimacy.


organizational legitimacy, mass self-communication, online communities, evaluative judgments, social media

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