Inside 4 Companies’ Facebook and Twitter Strategies

Capturing customer data and building communities on Facebook and Twitter isn’t easy. Learn how four CIOs are integrating social media with business data to draw more attention to their companies’ products and deliver better service.

The customer may always be right (even when he’s not). Now he’s also in your face, thanks to social media.

On Oct. 6, the clothing store Gap surprised the Web with a new corporate logo and was immediately deluged by thousands of comments—nearly all complaints—on Facebook, Twitter, various blogs and other sites.

The logo—round black letters on a grainy white background—“blows,” someone wrote. “Incredibly cheap looking.” “Hideous.” Some Gap fans took to calling each other names, like “sissy.” Others made the kind of pronouncement that causes every marketer to shudder: “I’m never shopping there again if you proceed with the logo change.”

By Oct. 11, Gap said it would drop the new logo, returning to the 20-year-old version with white Spire font on a navy box. “We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community,” said Marka Hansen, president of Gap North America, in a statement.

Maybe you think Gap overreacted. That nobody likes change and social media by its nature encourages users to find something—anything—to talk about. Gap’s logo was simply the topic of the day. Skeptical bloggers even speculated that the logo change was a publicity stunt. “Just because there’s a big uproar on social media doesn’t mean it means anything,” says Zach Hofer-Shall, an analyst at Forrester Research.

On the other hand, an uproar might be significant, such as when users of some of Dell’s laptops complained—legitimately—about sound-quality problems. But weighing the value of data emerging from social networks is tricky. New social media monitoring tools can identify and capture online conversations that meet user-defined criteria. Yet these tools typically don’t support the deep analysis companies can do with traditional business data. Nor do social media tools easily integrate with existing CRM suites and data warehouses, which would allow easy data sharing.

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