Kickstarting Your Corporate Social Revolution

Last Updated Mar 25, 2008 9:52 AM EDT

Kickstarting Your Corporate Social RevolutionEvery revolution needs a revolutionary. Have you identified the Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or Che Guevara who is going to lead your corporate social revolution?

This is the effort to forge new, interactive engagements with both your customers and employees using social technologies such as blogs, wikis, consumer ratings, social networking sites, user-generated content, and podcasts, to name some.

Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li says you probably already know this revolutionary-in-waiting -- and you may find her a little irritating.

It may be the technie who brags that she's been blogging since 1999, or the corporate communications person who loves to talk with customers on external bulletin boards. This person is probably also a bit a thorn in the side of management, constantly agitating for under-represented customers who are suffering some sort of injustice at the hands of management that just "doesn't get it".
In her Harvard Business blog, Li says this is just the passionate person you need to help figure out the best strategy for developing and executing a social technologies strategy.

To find these people, managers must do three things, according to Li. Define the organizational boundaries in which they can act; encourage experimentation and failure; and accept that this endeavor might make you feel a little uncomfortable.

She advises the revolutionaries themselves to be smart about dealing with management and be ready to demonstrate concrete results from their efforts.
If you've been contemplating first steps to create a social strategy for your business, Li's piece marks a good starting line.

(Reenactor image by flattop341, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.