A lot of conversations take place on social networks about companies and issues they care about. But marshalling the company's internal resources to focus on those conversations can be a problem.
Trying to plug that gap is RightNow Technologies, which offers a platform for building customer-facing self-service applications. RightNow has added a module to its customer-experience suite, called RigthNow CX, that makes it easy to extend RightNow self-service applications into Facebook pages.
According to John Kembel, RightNow vice president for social solutions, RightNow is making it possible to point people on a range of social networks, including Twitter, MySpace and YouTube, directly to self-service applications. As part of that exercise, customers who access a Facebook page can assist each other or ask for help from a company representative.
Companies have built up significant customer-service infrastructure over the years and trying to duplicate that infrastructure on a social network is not the most efficient use of limited resources. While it's true that companies need to go where the customers are and that increasingly means social networks, companies need an easy way to extend their existing customer-service investments out to those environments as opposed to trying to reinvent a Web 2.0 wheel.
But no matter how companies choose to participate on social networks, it's clear that they can't control conversations in which they don't take part.