by Darren Murph
April 29th, 2014

The very same notion that companies are thrilled about is causing all sorts of predicaments. What notion, you ask? The notion of availability. No longer do companies have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to get recognized in the market, as a web presence and a few social accounts take care of that. But there’s a danger to being so readily open and available — if you aren’t prepared for engagement, that availability can turn negative in a hurry.

Think about it: even the National Security Agency of the United States has a website. You won’t find any secrets on it, but you will find a marginal amount of information coupled with contact links to get you started. A few decades ago, such access would be unheard of for a governmental agency of its ilk, and the same could be said for the corporations that oversee production of the things you use in everyday life.

Today’s interconnected world has made it easier than ever for companies and individuals to speak to customers (and prospective ones). It’s made it possible to put forth a company’s opinion on just about anything, with very little planning and budgeting required. It has provided a voice for entities, but it’s important to recognize that dialogue goes both ways.

Few companies have opted not to create official Twitter and Facebook profiles, but those have who abstained have also limited the ways that consumers can contact them with praises and complaints. On the flip side, companies who have opened themselves up to the world must now be prepared to field gripes around the clock. The unspoken rule of being a company on Twitter is as such: you can’t just use your social channel to speak… you have to listen, too.

In the past, many issues that were kept relatively private are now broadcast to the world. Even seemingly minor issues are being laid out and resolved in the public eye, giving anyone who chooses the ability to judge just how successful (or not) a company is at two-way communications. It’s critically important for companies to realize just how significant a public, open conversation is.

A pattern of helpful responses can trigger loyalty that wasn’t possible in a world before Facebook, but a history of shunning users or using social as a one-way loudspeaker can cause irreparable harm.

Darren Murph is senior vice president of editorial strategy

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