Nearly half of marketers surveyed believe that the benefits of social media are overshadowed by the associated threats, and their fear of customer criticism is slowing the adoption of social and mobile channels for customer engagement, according to Richard McCrossan, strategic business director for Genesys. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

In the company's latest survey of marketing professionals, only 26% said expected that customer recommendations through social media would have a positive effect. Yet a 2010 survey by the American Marketing Association (AMA) revealed that 14% of consumers trust traditional advertising, while 90% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, and 70% trust peer reviews posted online.

Clearly, customer comments exert a greater influence as they are based on actual experiences and interactions with the brand. As consumers engage in a dialogue and voice their opinions on products, businesses and services, companies have had to join this conversation by changing and adapting the way in which communication with customers takes place.

Engaging with customers shows that you are a company that cares about its customers. Companies that engage effectively with consumers can enjoy the benefits from the development of brand advocates within their audience. This in turn can lead to an increased level of trust in the company and its products and it can also enable companies to provide the best customer experience by allowing customer service delivery to become part of the consumer dialogue.

The key, McCrossan suggests, is to provide opportunities for consumers with similar interests, passions and needs to collectively engage in conversations related to specific products and services which meet those needs. Our research has shown that businesses are beginning to understand this with 47% using a team and 27% used an individual to manage social media.

In addition, by using social media monitoring tools, customer service and the organisation at large, can 'hear' their consumers, provide timely responses, determine the appropriate action and manage other issues that may arise. In this way a company can build trust with customers and at the same time take the final step to harness the power of social media to generate revenue and increasingly take advantage of new mobile commerce platforms.

These conversations, which engage directly with the consumer, can deliver important insights to allow the company to better manage and build its brand.