Author Simon Mainwaring looks at how brands and consumers can use social media to build a better world.
The book: We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World, by Simon Mainwaring; Palgrave Macmillan.
The big idea: Companies and consumers should make decisions about what and how they sell and buy with an eye toward common prosperity. Social networking provides a bazillion ways to do that.
The backstory: Mainwaring, CEO of a brand consulting firm, was inspired by Bill Gates's call at Davos in 2008 to engage in creative capitalism to harness market forces for social good.
Universal donors: Mainwaring advocates a system called contributory consumption, in which every transaction generates a contribution toward improving the planet.
You can't hide: Mainwaring paints a future in which consumers know as much about companies as COOs do and allocate dollars accordingly. If you are not familiar with applications like GoodGuide, which has information on 100,000 consumer goods, or Greenopia, a listing of environmentally sound businesses, then you should be.
If you read nothing else: The last four chapters survey innovative marketing and volunteerism as well as tools such as private shopping clubs that influence companies' practices.
Rigor rating: 7 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). We First is based primarily on secondary sources. But it serves up so much data that you can build your own social responsibility plan without cracking another book.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan