Corporate Citizen + Social Maven??

I’m happy to see the field of social entrepreneurship is growing in popularity and acceptance as a career choice.  Many of these smart, dedicated, and charismatic individuals are increasingly using social media to spread awareness, long tail dynamics to raise funds for causes, and are engaged in good old fashion social activism driving support for needed legislation.

I have to confess I initially thought social entrepreneurship was geared toward Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, not the folks working to affect social change.  Last year, I had an opportunity to meet with David Bornstein the author of “How to Change the World, Social Entrepreneurs and The Power of New Ideas” http://bit.ly/ZJUMV.  I got a chance to learn firsthand how this movement is spreading and affecting change into all levels of society and across the globe.  Definitely a recommended read…

Its my sense this movement is and will continue to permeate corporations.  This will reflect in greater programs around volunteerism and campaigns around good corporate citizenship.  Not only will this assist with employee attraction and retention but will continue to provide benefits for the bottom line. This includes everything from programs around recycling, conservation and sustainability to campaigns and initiatives helping local communities and special interest groups providing needed boosts to corporate image.

I wanted to see if there was any correlation between the most social companies/brands and those that are focusing on the most social good.  My theory was that there should be some correlation between companies who invest in social media and those striving to create a high degree of corporate good.  The Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO) publishes a list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens http://bit.ly/YJqoR, interestingly enough only three companies have made the list for the past 10 years: Intel, Cisco and Starbucks. This trend is becoming more important to global organizations as watchdog groups are providing a “good housekeeping” seal of approval around a triple bottom line – Financial, Environmental and Social.  Other organizations like the Aspen Institute, Business and Society Program are dedicated to developing leaders for a sustainable global society http://bit.ly/dfc7Zp.

On the social media side, there are several organizations that track and rank the social aptitude of brands and corporations.  One I follow is Vitrue who publishes a list of the top 100 social brands of 2009 http://bit.ly/7evUUl.  This list put Apple’s iphone at the top position and is dominated by apparel, media and consumer electronics companies.

Interestingly, there was not a high correlation between companies listed as good corporate citizens and those who are highly social. Although the three mentioned above, continue to climb to the top on both lists.  Certain outliers like General Mills who is #2 on the list for best corporate citizen had no mention on the list of brands who are most social, even though they continue to heavily explore and invest in campaigns and initiatives involving social media http://vimeo.com/6677922. I think these 2 trends will see greater levels of overlap as companies identify and assess the value on both efforts seeing them less as mutually exclusive and more as complimentary efforts.   What are your thoughts?

About Ari

I am a Professor, Digital Media and Marketing at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University and I teach classes focused on assessing and measuring the impact of emerging technologies including Digital Transformations, Marketing and Measuring Social. This later class is designed as an experiential learning, project-based class where students work closely with company sponsors to develop recommendations and an analysis framework around a social initiative. The class provides students an overview of the social space, identification of key trends, issues and player, measurement tools and techniques as well as a comprehensive understanding of the business ramifications in adopting a social based strategy. Prior to diving into the professorial role, I have a bunch of experience in new technology development and commercialization. I started a consulting company, Broadside, which provides services to companies/organizations around collaboration, innovation and new technology development. I was also a member of several successful entrepreneurial high tech ventures doing a bunch of stuff from product management to business development. Over my career I have developed communities and digital media strategies for companies and organizations within healthcare, chemical industry, telecom industry, consumer packaged goods market, and the financial services space. Also I have done some work with universities to put together strategies and processes for building expert communities to accelerate technology commercialization.
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