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How Social Media Drives Accountability

How Social Media Drives Accountability

by Starling Insights

Starling Insights Editorial Board


According to research conducted by Harvard Business School professors Jonas Heese and Joseph Pacelli, social media — and Twitter in particular —  plays a critical role in allowing customers, employees, and other stakeholders to hold corporations accountable.

Traditional media and newspapers have steeply declined in recent years, eliminating a key vector by which companies have been monitored and made to answer for their actions. However, Heese and Pacelli believe that Twitter could partially fill the void.

The researchers analyzed data from the 3G mobile broadband network rollout and Violation Tracker reports to find that facility-level penalties dropped by about 13% after neighborhoods gained 3G access, and violations dropped by 1.8%. The pair also found that ZIP codes with above-median Twitter usage were linked to decreased reports of corporate misconduct. "Our findings... suggest that Twitter plays a critical role in monitoring companies," Heese said.

The results noted that the monitoring power of various social media platforms was particularly effective for high-profile companies, including those that are consumer-facing and often covered by traditional media outlets. On the other hand, social media channels could also be used by companies to help business leaders learn about potential problems throughout their organizations. "Employees often feel safer to discuss problems in their organization on social media, oftentimes under the guise of anonymity," Pacelli said.

Don't miss hearing from Jonas Heese in our 2023 Compendium, coming in May.

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