I’m taking a different approach in this post because I think it merits discussion. How does social media really affect us? I put stuff out there everyday and I feel like I have a decent group of followers, but at the end of the day how much influence do I really have? I have recent examples where I can show you precisely how much it does matter. The first is a customer service issue with my good friends at Westin (@westin). They are my good friends because of their ability to react quickly to what could have been a festering situation. I was staying at the Houston Galleria Westin (Not the Galleria Oaks for those in the know) and had the misfortune of experiencing a rather annoying and poorly timed fire alarm. Annoying because it lasted over an hour, and poorly time because the hour was from 3 to 4 am. Once I finally decided that I should probably go ahead and get dressed, go to the lobby, and see what all of the fuss was about I did what any good social media user does. I Instagram’ed the crowds and fireman responding to the false alarm in the lobby and shared that Instagram video on Foursquare, Twitter, and both Facebook accounts. In the morning when I woke up 3 hours later, the iron in the room had no indicators left on the dial because they had all worn off. Last straw. In both cases I used what I considered to be a very accurate hashtag of #neveragain, because I will never stay there again. Ever. I have had problems with this particular location in the past, and this most recent booking was done out of desperation. Here I am not even a sentence later, and already have to say never say never again. The fine folks at Westin monitor these networks like any company should. Social reputation is easy to listen for, and even more important to respond to. I got a message on each of the major networks asking me to send them an email so that they could take care of the problem which they did. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but hey, they offered with minimal provocation. I didn’t have to fight with a manager. I didn’t have to sit on hold. I didn’t really have to do anything other than be a good consumer that reported issues with a product I wasn’t satisfied with in an open forum. Easy! So Westin Galleria, though I won’t stay with you again. I will continue my loyalty to the Westin chain. You did me right and I’ll return that favor. I should add that Westin is not the only company that has taken good care of me due to Twitter or Facebook posts. I use an app to track my sleep and wake me up everyday called Sleep Time. I like it. I said so and the Sleep Time people said thanks. You’re welcome. I woke up early one morning in Dallas and my hotels water temperature was either Lava or Iceberg. I mentioned that on Twitter mostly because I thought it was funny, and got an apology. Thanks. I use a program to automagically update my address book in Outlook and Gmail called WriteThat.name. It works really well so I mentioned that socially. The company thanked me directly. Again, you’re welcome. So the next time you are frustrated or elated with service, product, or a company in general, my advice to you is to share that info. It just might help the next person get a better experience. That next person could be me, so I say to you…Thanks.