The Rise and Stall of Stakeholder Influence: How the Digital Age Limits Social Control

Have stakeholders increased their influence over firm behavior in the digital age? We draw from cognitive theory to argue that although social media has made it easier for stakeholders to broadcast their demands, the methods used to cope with the drastic change in quantities and qualities of information in the digital age have limited stakeholder influence in the aggregate. Even secondary stakeholders now have the ability to engage mass audiences, but the likelihood of success of most stakeholders’ efforts to alter firm behavior has been constrained amid the torrent of information flows. We develop a revised framework that accounts for the cognitive mechanisms that buffer firm–stakeholder relationships from change and thereby limit the overall effects of the digital age on stakeholder influence over firm behavior.