By Gary M. Stern, contributor
FORTUNE -- For customers and companies alike, the sprawling world of social networks offers an attractive point of rendezvous. Companies get the near-equivalent of all the free advertising and focus groups they want. And consumers get direct access to some of the largest businesses in the world.
A perfect match, right? Well, not exactly.
Like any other business relationship, social connections are only as valuable as the amount of time and energy a company spends on developing this bond. Even free advertising comes at a price.
Indeed, an October 2011 study conducted by Conversocial, a London-based software company specializing in social networking, found that many retailers fail to respond to one major type of consumer response: complaints.
Conversocial's survey noted that retailers Costco (COST), Kmart and Kroger (KR) missed 100% of their consumers' complaints on social networking sites during September 2011, and Wal-Mart (WMT) ignored 40% of complaints. Out of the 10 major retailers examined over a five-day period in September, only Safeway (SWY) shined, responding to 95% of complaints on their Facebook page. More
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