Companies are failing to keep up with the pace of change on the internet, according to Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at consultancy Altimeter Group.
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"Most companies can't keep up with the slow web, let alone the future web," he said, speaking at the Le Web conference in Paris.
There are several examples of companies whose adverts or marketing had been negatively discussed on Twitter and YouTube, he said.
Motrin, an American painkiller brand, responded within 24 hours when mothers tweeted that their adverts were "patronising", but this wasn't quick enough to prevent the story becoming headline news, he said.
Companies should listen to people on the social web, using Google alerts, Technorati to monitor blogs, and Twitter search, he said.
Consider using social monitoring software and a search for topics around your product - for example searching 'headache' and 'back pain' if you're Motrin, he said.
The second part of the process is to build up 'social personalisation'. This involves using the information you've found on customers through the social web and matching it with the data already held on them.
Companies can look at a customer's website or Facebook profile and recommend a new car for them, for example. "These systems aren't very mature at the moment," Owyang said, "but this is going to extend into the real world."
Companies should build up armies of volunteers to monitor the web for them, said Owyang. "You can't be in all places at all times on the web, so work with your customers to build that army," he said.
They get recognition rather than payment and can be given access to special information and events. It's also important to listen to their feedback and make changes based on it, he said.
Companies can also invest in social CRM management systems. These systems are in their infancy because most of them have not yet connected up with the data available on social networking profiles.
But using the data from these profiles can help companies to respond quicker and provides a company with a 'real time' database on what consumers are saying, he said.