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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Social Media Impacts Corporate Responsibility

I was reading the first edition of the In Context Bulletin, a quarterly newsletter on corporate sustainability. In the latest issue, a topic close to my interests caught my attention. The article was focused on social media and how these web tools can better target your corporate sustainability messages.

Personally, I thought the article missed the true value of blogging and how it can impact corporate responsibility. I posted a response on the In Context blog expressing my thoughts.

The world of corporate communications is changing. There used to be a clear line of demarcation between the individual as an executive communicating a corporate message and the individual as a private citizen exchanging personal views. Corporate communications that represent the company position tend to be one too many. Private citizen communications are two-way but limited to very small audiences.

With internet tools and blogging especially, there is a significant blurring of these two options that I see will bring great value to corporations and to corporate responsibility.

In fact, I have written a couple pieces on why I personally blog and tweet.

The internet and social media tools that are now available act as an equalizer for individuals to voice their thoughts. These tools also allow executives in large organizations to share their personal views and become connected with their stakeholders.

Having a company blog open to comments from readers helps in some way show the importance of weighing differing viewpoints directed toward that company. When a business executive can truly express his or her views, blogging provides a strong foundation for individual accountability. And through opening him or herself up to a more personal connection with readers I believe the executive blogger (CR practitioner or otherwise) creates an environment in which the views of their external stakeholders are front of mind in their decision-making.

Blogging as a communications tool for CR practitioners is interesting, but blogging as a mechanism to bridge the gap between company executives and stakeholders is a compelling route to ever-improving corporate responsibility.

I’d be interested in hearing your take on the impact of social media on corporate responsibility. Why do you participate in social media and what impact has it had so far?


  1. social media is great for csr and stakeholder communications. Sure you may get activists who'll decide to participate as well (primarily for controversial companies), but it's all good. A high rate of interaction levels may be nice, but we must remember that most people are lurkers and won't participate in a dialogue - but they'll definitely read what's being said.

  2. Social media is more than just an opportunity for dialogue or voyeurism. The new new media is driving social action in ways we could not contemplate a decade ago. Advocating change through direct mail or broadcast media is a monologue hail mary. Driving your message home through e-mail blasts offers the promise of dialogue but its akin to rolling a snowball into an avalanche.

    The beauty of social media--and its enabler, the mobile device--is that an idea can be introduced into a network (or incubator) of engaged stakeholders. There the idea can germinate and evolve as stakeholders dynamically shape the contours of the notion into a more refined, more resilient form of social action. The process can occur anywhere and at anytime. Moreover, it has the power of collective intelligence (and perhaps wisdom) to evolve the idea from social action to a change movement (or outbreak). Ideas don't always survive this process of networked vetting and refinement but when they do the results can be extaordinary. There are now many examples that demonstrate this particular attribute of social media from more sustainable new product discovery to political reform. And we're just getting started...

  3. Social media has the power to engage people in conversations. During my tenure at Deloitte Center for Edge, I used to work for John Hagel and John Seely Brown. They are big believers in Social Media. They would post sections of their upcoming book on various blogs to get dialogues/conversations going. They would gather the feedback they get from these conversations and think about ways to improve the content in their books.

    I think we have to use similar strategies when it comes to CSR. We have to gather feedback from the people/employees on the various initiatives and how we could change the initiatives to make them more effective.

    But as Mario pointed that there will be lurkers, so we just cannot depend on blogs. We have to use all forms of social media and see where we can connect with the employees and have conversations with them.

  4. It's a great way to consistently engage with a community interested in your corporate responsibility stance. This may include supporters, or even people against some of your business practices. The good thing is that you can have some element of control over the conversation (as long as you behave appropriately) and can learn about potential issues before they become mainstream.

    You have to keep the communication fair, reasonable and good natured though. Make sure the right person in your organisation is looking after your CR blog.

    Great blog by the way, I've just posted about CSR on my own blog at

  5. Andy's comment makes me point out one issue with social media. Over years we have been trained to design our policies and systems for 2% of our users. Those users who are on a lookout to abuse the system. So we put enough barriers and restrictions that the other 98% have to go through as well. Just to minimize any effect to the Brand.

    But with current day social media, this strategy will not work. The posts and interactions have to be free flowing, personal and human. Conversations with a brand do not go well, but those with the humans behind the brand are often appreciated.