Companies are resisting the take up of social media because of fears they will be bombarded with complaints and be faced with endless legal dilemmas that they are unequipped to handle.
But their avoidance tactics mean they risk losing touch with their client base and igniting further criticism for their failure to communicate via popular social networks.
This week, Blackberry users experienced disruptions to their service and used Twitter to vent their frustrations at the lack of explanation provided by Research in Motion, the company behind the Blackberry device.
Liz Backhouse, social media expert at hosting specialist UKFast, follows Blackberry's Twitter accounts and explains that two were "extremely active" before the service issues started had become less so over the past few days.
"As soon as things started going wrong they backed off from their Twitter communication," she said. "One of their accounts has offered six tweets of help over the past two days, before that they were tweeting a lot more each day.
"If an account is rarely used by a company and then going quiet during problems isn't too revealing because clearly social media just isn't on their radar. However with Blackberry, they have super-active accounts that just go silent and that is terrible!"
Backhouse was also vocal at a round table event on this very topic held at Microsoft's offices in London. At the event, Backhouse discussed the importance of joining the conversations on social media, or it will simply happen without you.
She said: "Whether you are on it or not, people will talk about you. I had a bad experience with a company recently and I went on Twitter to tell other people how useless that company was. Because this company wasn't on there, they couldn't handle my compliant. Things can get out of hand because they're not on there to respond. You can't control a conversation if you're not part of it. Your consumers will be talking on social media with or without you."
Phil Calderbank, founder of Sommebox said businesses that ignore the significance of social media in their communications and customer service strategies are storing up big problems for the future. He said: "Firms think about getting into it but worry that they will be bombarded with complaints. Maybe you should delay launching your strategy until you have sorted that out - ask yourself why you are getting the complaints in the first place - but you definitely shouldn't dismiss social media because of possible negative press.
"Social media isn't anonymous. There are lots of websites out there that are anonymous where you might get more complaints so social media isn't the worst for attracting criticism like that."
Paying for a consultant to develop a social media strategy or taking legal advice on how to approach certain subjects and deal with complaints can be worth the investment, the experts said.
"A lot of people forget that this is a two-way street," said Andrew Fryer, technical evangelist at Microsoft. "It's not just us throwing a lot of stuff up there and seeing what sticks. It's about a conversation and people need to be tooled up to deal with that. If you are going to put yourself out there, do it properly because otherwise you could make things worse."
Calderbank discussed the challenge that estate agents face when dealing with tenant issues in a social media setting. "It is an uphill struggle but you can turn those negatives into positives. If you handle them in the right way, you can say 'yes, we did have this problem but this is how we've dealt with it and that makes us better than our competitors who wouldn't have handled it in the same way.'"
Steve Kuncewicz, director at Mayday Mayday, said: "It's not necessarily for everyone but you can't afford to ignore it. There are risks that come with getting out of bed in the morning and there are risks with every form of communication but social media is more transparent and more immediate - you need to invest in the processes and controls to deal with it.
"There are more risks now because the Advertising Standards Agency is getting more involved in websites too so businesses need to get their in-house systems in order to deal with that.
Kuncewicz continued: "There is talk of the next step - using social media to deal with HR internally but ideas like that are hard to sell to a company that just wants 60,000 likes on Facebook so they can monetise it."
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