To be honest I hear it too often in my field of work that companies should not only listen to their customers on social media, that they should not ignore them but even worse: that social media is king and that they should follow the rules of their customers created on social media. As soon as you treat social media as king then you just turned in a peon. There is nothing wrong with listening, there is a lot wrong with treating social media as king.
When treating social media as king, you are forgetting about your own values, about your leaderships and about your vision. Hardly any company is just doing something, most often it is well thought (as in: many people thought about it, it doesn’t mean it is always a good idea), and often well analyzed. However as soon as there is an online angry mob online, companies tend to stop thinking, start to run around and finally end up being the peon for the angry mob: they make the changes that are demanded and stop thinking, ending up in leaving their value, leadership and vision.
I am not saying you should ignore social media, however crowds tend to be stupid in general, angry mobs tend to miss your bigger picture and to be honest, angry mobs online are often just populists and the result will be that you are adapting your product and service based on what is shouted out most, not what is best for your product, service or company. It is hardly the case that an angry mob has a well formed vision, strategy or other long term views on what you should do. The main reason why people wanted GAP to change it’s logo is because it wasn’t like the old one, not because somebody really had a better idea.
So listen to what is said about you, your product and service in social media. As soon as you treat social media as king, you end up with being the peon for a mad king who is doing more harm than good. You are the one who should be king, though you should not treat social media as a peon, since then you will initiate a revolution. See social media as an advisor, as a canary in the coal mine, nothing more, nothing less, don’t overvalue social media.