Try a little experiment, Pombriant says. Do a Google search of any company name, followed by the word "sucks." Now hit the Enter key and check out the fascinating results.
No matter what company name you type in, just look at all that attention those businesses are getting! Of course, this is not the kind of attention you might want your business to be receiving, but there it is, in living color on the Internet for the viewing pleasure of potential customers around the world.
So what can you do?
"You can't simply ignore it," he says. "The approach in the past has been to ignore it because it's just too expensive to fight all those brush fires. But if you don't find out, those brush fires are going to turn into forest fires."
At the very least, your company can set up simple "Google Alerts" for instances of your company name when it comes up in Google searches. Customers, both happy and unhappy, are most likely posting things online on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Web sites and other destinations about companies and products that they use and buy. "You can find out what your customers think about you, you can discover what is on their minds and about their unmet needs and their biases," Pombriant says.
"It's an outgrowth of being social," he says. "Being social doesn't mean being nice all the time. Being social means telling it like you see it."
There's even a name for all of this new online marketing potential, he says. Forget about "e-commerce." That's so Year 2000. Instead, try F-Commerce, as in Facebook Commerce.
But before you schedule a staff meeting tomorrow to get your whole company on board the Facebook Express, take a breath, Pombriant advises.
It's not just being on Facebook and Twitter and then communicating with your customers, he says. It's also knowing the markets and audiences on those platforms and knowing what you need to do to communicate with your targeted audience. Again, that's where those pesky analytics come in.
"It's always been true that you need to understand your target market and it's just as true with Facebook," he says. "Some people see half a billion users on Facebook and they say that means it's a great market. But there's more to it than that. Yes, it's a big market but it's skewed towards women, with about 62% of the users being female."
That makes a difference in how you approach it, he says.
Last year, Pombriant wrote a book on Social CRM called, "Hello Ladies! Dispatches from the SocialCRM Frontier."