One of the most common issues big organizations have with social media is a reasonable fear that customers will air their grievances on a company-sponsored platform such as a blog, Twitter or Facebook page. The nearly universal response to this fear, one that has been hammered home at every conference, and in every blog post is, “your customers are already saying these things about you. Wouldn’t you rather have them talking on your site?” This response rings true because, by and large your customers are online –- and they do have the means to talk about you. If you are a sizable company and you look around it is very likely that someone, somewhere has said some pretty shocking things about you. Sometimes they even work for you.

The hackneyed “you better join the conversation” is often an appropriate response. But it isn’t always the appropriate response.

First, there is a difference between isolated criticism that a company may receive here and there on the Social Web from people of varying influence and veracity, and painting a target on your back by hosting that conversation.

Second, and more importantly, when an organization makes an investment in social media it is a constructive opportunity to consider not only what could go wrong, but why it could go wrong. In other words, what are the valid criticisms that customers and employees might have and what you are willing to do about it. If you aren’t willing to consider the former and have no power concerning the latter, social media might not be your best bet.

Taylor Fitzgerald for uncluttered white spaces