As you'll remember from The Tipping Point , all social networks are not created equal. Certain individuals have enormous social network reach and act like Internet exchange hubs. It is therefore critical to identify and leverage these "connectors" to get the maximum social network effect. If you follow the idea that commerce is a conversation, then finding the mavens in your community and working them to best effect for PR, marketing and customer service is going to be one of the highest ROI areas for social CRM.
Unfortunately, there is an area where we haven't seen much yet: Identifying who in your organization has the best connection to someone you need to get to. It would be nice to know who has the best social path, for both speed and credibility of connection. Due to privacy policies, security issues and API limitations, however, it looks like we're going to be waiting a while for this one.
With the Facebook IPO and the Salesforce acquisition of Buddy Media, social advertising is all over the trade press. There are some cool success stories here, but go in with your eyes open. Results vary, and missteps can cost you in customer reputation-or, thanks to violations of privacy, in court.
Far more mature are product review engines such as Bazaarvoice and Extole, as well as sites from Yelp and others. Because these systems develop and groom the reactions of your customers, they can achieve dramatic results. Decades of data show that the unsolicited opinions of customers are many times more credible and influential than advertising can ever be. Indeed, an entire methodology has sprung out of the research surrounding The Ultimate Question .