Max Gladwell

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CEOs Feel Pressure from “Prosumers” Through Social Media

May 7th, 2008 by Max Gladwell · 4 Comments

The C-suite is responding to the newfound influence of proactive producer-consumers

IBM surveyed more than 1,000 CEOs from around the world and found that the nexus of social media and green living ranks high on their list of priorities. The power of social networks and blogs is influencing everything from products and business models to CSR efforts. The overarching theme is rapid change driven by people and technology.

Hungry for change. Wildly imaginative. Disruptive by nature. Totally wired to the people who matter most. To some people, this might sound like your average teenager. In fact, these are the qualities companies will need to thrive in the near future, according to our newest CEO study.

CEOs identified two types of customers that are the primary sources of that change: the information omnivore and the socially minded customer. CEOs plan their most significant new investments to reach these customer sets. “The enterprise is no longer the definitive authority,” said Jim Bramante of IBM. “The power of the customer is rising. These people have more information available to them, and a more global view.”

“In the future, we will be talking more and more about the ‘prosumer’,” said Hartmut Jenner, CEO, Alfred Karcher GmbHa. “[A] consumer/producer who is even more extensively integrated into the value chain. As a consequence, production processes will be customized more precisely and individually.” Indeed, we referred to this trend in our post on the AdAge report. The term consumer is dated and inaccurate.

IBM CEO Study: The Enterprise of the Future

Part and parcel with this trend is the increase in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts (click image for PDF brief).

The next generation of socially minded customers, workers and investors is watching every move a company makes. CEOs recognize this and CSR is climbing higher on the agenda. It’s critical to attracting talent, breaking into new markets and protecting the brand.

As a result, 25% of companies will increase their investment in this key area, generally focused on developing new “green” products. One challenge will be how to make CSR a more holistic aspect of company processes.

“I see corporate responsibility going through three phases,” said Vinod Mittal, Managing Director, ISPAT Industries. “People start to consider issues like the environment because they are compelled to do so. Then they realize that it actually makes business sense. Eventually, they move beyond compulsion and selfish motives to become passionate because it is the right thing to do.”

For all of you who participate in positive social media, congratulations. It’s working.

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Tags: CSR