Last week I wrote in StrategyBlogs that bridging the gap between strategy formulation and strategy implementation is possible through a true dialogue with your stakeholders. In the current edition of Business Horizons there is an interesting article about secondary stakeholders and their growing influence.
Stakeholders can be any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the organization’s objectives, whereby primary stakeholders are directly related (e.g. shareholders, employees) and secondary stakeholders are indirectly related (For example the general public, communities, activist groups, business support groups, and the media).
Through the internet and the social media, secondary stakeholders are increasing their influence on companies. Today if you search for a product or service, you will probably search online first. Besides the official communications of companies there is an increasing user content and opinions showing up in your results as well. Through social network platforms such as Twitter and Facebook you can see that networks of influence are growing by strangers as we increasingly socialise on these platforms.
In my opinion the distinction between primary and secondary stakeholders in our modern society is disappearing. From a sustainability and innovation perspective, the secondary stakeholders can be viewed as watchdogs who can provide insight in parts of the organization or its effects that are less visible. Secondary stakeholders can also be viewed as a guide to new business development as innovation is often the result of making new connections.
Managing the increasing number of stakeholders, is of course a challenge for companies. However as the internet and social media are the engine that fuels the importance of stakeholders it can be also be the solution for companies to engage with different groups of stakeholders. Building and participating in communities online can be an effective and efficient way that companies and stakeholders can engage in a world where online and offline are becoming more and more interconnected.
Jurgens, M., Berthon, P., Edelman, L., & Pitt, L. (2016). Social media revolutions: The influence of secondary stakeholders. Business Horizons.