Not so long ago PR firms listened by monitoring mass media sources, like print pieces and broadcast transcripts. Their efforts relied on rudimentary techniques, such as clipping books, human analysis, and basic reports on the volume of coverage, themes, and their sentiments. This all changed when these firms realized that ordinary people were holding conversations online. What had been water-cooler chats, sideline banter at soccer games, and Q and A's with local experts on some product or other moved to social spaces via keyboard presses and Internet connections.
Upon looking into online word of mouth, marketers and agencies recognized that it combined details and opinions about product features, plans, and experiences, and, importantly, the companies themselves. They saw how those conversations could bring Olympian companies to their knees, as famously happened to Dell, or to elevate niche players, like Zappos, to the pantheon.
Social media is more than a place for chitchat; social networks and their communications tools enable people to coordinate pressure tactics aimed to persuade companies to take actions they desire. Moreover, such movements do not need centralized leadership or control as they once did, since information sharing is continuous, handheld, and global. These developments place companies (and many institutions) in unfamiliar and potentially vulnerable positions, due to the intensity and speed with which their products, business practices, ...