Rob Birgfeld at SmartBlog suggests the real value of social media is as a crisis tool:
While many companies are looking to measure return on investment by looking at improved sales, greater operational efficiencies, etc., we often ignore social media’s crisis management benefits until it’s too late. Dallas Lawrence (of Burson-Marsteller) reminded (BlogWorld Expo) attendees to invest in social media for what he calls a “return on avoiding pain.” To stop a crisis in its tracks, you have to have a presence and an ear to the ground. Lawrence cited United Airlines as an example. In 2008, when an archived story announcing the airline was filing for bankruptcy got picked up by Bloomberg – the story took off, made its way around the blogosphere and sent the stock tumbling. In the traditional sense, United did nothing wrong. But if they were appropriately monitoring — and consequently addressing the misinformation -- the airline could have averted what turned out to be a true disaster.