Many businesses fear social media and, in a way, they have a right to. By definition, one of the major factors of what sites/tools are described as social media is that they are open: Free for people to speak their mind. That one aspect can often keep companies away.
The major thing to understand about social media is that no one can control the conversation. Companies can and should simply provide the space for discussion and participate. The average consumer isn’t going to launch a slander campaign if there is a company outlet for them to legitimately voice their issues.
Companies who are open and actively communicating with online consumers enjoy ever increasing brand loyalty because those consumers feel a camaraderie with the company that works with them. Control, for the most part, is unnecessary. Simply creating the space for consumers to meet, vent, and chat will help your customers to gravitate to your brand.
In many cases, companies have to see social media as an opportunity; the ability to learn about their business from a consumer perspective, solve consumer problem publicly, build relationships directly, offer more or better services and overall improve their brand.