If you are a baby boomer like I am, you probably remember the 60s television show, Bewitched. Mrs. Kravitz was the busybody next-door neighbor of the sitcom's main characters, Darren and Samantha Stevens. Mrs. Kravitz was extremely nosy; always peeking through the curtains to see what was going on at the Stevens' home. If there was anything strange activity or unusual behavior, she knew about it (Samantha practiced witchcraft, so strange or unusual was an understatement.

) The point is, she was extremely observant and clearly saw the goings-on where no one else did.

In today's environment consumers have enormous control over what is said about your product or company. In fact, studies show that most people now rely on from trusted friends and Web sites over when making a purchase decision. Just take a spin on consumer rating sites like Tripadvisor or Buzzillions. has empowered consumers to expose the good, the bad and the ugly about your product.

Because we have this technology that allows us to hear what people are talking about, the true value in social media is to know what our customers want in real time. To understand what they care about, what they're looking for and to be able to provide products for them. The key is to monitor the chatter and react accordingly. It's what I like to call the Mrs. Kravitz effect. We need to constantly peek through the curtains and monitor what our customers are saying about us.

If we're monitoring online chatter then we can respond in real time. When we hear someone talking about needing help with something, we can give them information. When someone talks about how much they liked our product or service, we can respond to them because we have an evangelist. But if someone talks about what they didn't like, it also gives us an . It behooves me to contact that person and say to them, hey sorry you were disappointed. Where did I let you down? How can I make it better?

When you make a bad situation into a good situation, you make the relationship with your stronger than it ever would have been. It's not so tough to prove friendship and commitment when things are good. The opportunity to really prove that you have something to offer is when things are bad.

Social media also lets us become information providers. When we're monitoring online chatter using a microblogging site such as or Lunch, we can take information that we find interesting, and that we think others will find interesting, and we can retweet or redistribute it. If you have a blog and you find an article someone else has written that you think the readers of your blog would enjoy, it's quite simple to paste the link into your blog post – giving attribution to the author, of course – and say hey, I think you guys would find this interesting. The problem is there's so much information out there that it becomes impossible to read it all. So you can now take on the role of editor. You can become a thought leader and people will look to you to provide information that your customers want, and that will make a difference in their lives. Unlike Mrs. Kravitz, when you give advice, or express an opinion, people will take you seriously.

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