There will be a massive growth in companies' use of online communities to interact with their customers over the next year, according to analyst firm Gartner.
But poor management will mean the customer will get less value from them, said Gartner.
The firm said 60% of Fortune 1000 companies with a website will have some form of online community by 2010 that can be used for building a relationship with their customers, or Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
But more than 50% of those companies will "fail to manage that community as an agent of change, ultimately eroding customer value".
Companies are warned they will need to invest in new skills to take full advantage of the opportunities, and that an ability to respond and change quickly to new technologies will be needed.
The report says, "No single social application will suit every situation. Companies must quickly implement, integrate and tear down applications from a range of sources as needs and fashions change."
To get full benefit, businesses need to hone their skills on internal networks before trying out external sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. They need to create the right sort of application for their customer, making sure it fits with the way they buy goods or services online. And they should recruit skilled staff from the online gaming industry, as well as making sure the social applications they create are aimed at all levels of participants, from contributors to lurkers.