During an interview with Mashable, Peter Friedman, the CEO of social content management company LiveWorld, notes how PR has been affected by social media and what companies now have to do to maintain their competitive advantage. 

“Social media has, in essence, turned traditional PR on its head. “In the past, PR was very much about controlling the message. You can’t do that [on social]; You have to embrace the dialogue and your customers as they are, then influence and guide the conversation.”

Before the era of social media, stories were passed on by word of mouth. Now, new stories are deployed at a lightning speed. Companies are struggling to keep up and often individuals fall through the cracks and turn to any number of social media outlets to vent their frustrations. Consumerist, a consumer affairs blog, welcomes encounters with companies that have made an impression, both the good and the ugly. Here, readers submitted tips and complaints connect individuals with similar experiences with a brand. Each chapter of a delighted or disgruntled consumer is binded together to shape the collective novel of brand associations in the consumer eye.

Understanding the story embedded in social media content has become increasingly more important for businesses to create and maintain a relationship with their customers. Previously constrained by the slow word of mouth route, the voice of the consumer has become significantly more mobile, transparent and accessible by all. By thumbing through the pages of individual experiences with a brand, analysts are able to uncover themes that appear throughout the novel and must ask the following questions:

  • From where did the story originate?
  • Who is communicating the story?
  • Are the individual stories credible? Consistent with the collective whole?
  • Are there outliers?

Based on the answers, analysts must decide how to most effectively address the individual and collective stories to nurture their customer relationships. So how are you getting to the heart of the story being told by your customers?