When it comes to social media, many companies feel like the lion tamer at the circus: They enter the ring and hope to gain some cheers, but they always run the risk of losing control. Social media allows companies to communicate faster with customers, but they also lose control of most of these communications.

For example, corporate Twitter pages are managed by employees who post on behalf of the company and followed by many more people who respond to the postings. These contributions make for a remarkable amount of feedback and information—all of which companies need to keep track of and address as necessary. To aid them, Amazon Web services offer to search the Web and archives all blogs and social media posts, for just $15 per month. But if companies want the full-scale operation, costs can run up to $2 million!

The problems are not just with consumer communications though. Internally, companies need to monitor exactly what their employees say around the brand or promise to customers. Dell encourages its employees to use social media extensively, even training them in how to use social media. But this tool also requires Dell to expend resources to listen to and manage the conversations that its employees have about the brand.

By educating employees in advance, rather than just tracking them after they post messages, Dell still might not be able to control all communications, but at least it can help move those communications in the direction it prefers. For posts from customers though, which span the whole wide Web, companies need to continue to monitor, scan, and communicate carefully, lest the lion turn on them.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why is social media tracking important?

Tanzina Vega, “Tools to Help Companies Manage their Social Media,” The New York Times, November 14, 2010.