It is safe to say that my mom has been telling me for years that I don't always need to have the last word in a discussion or argument.
Mike Manuel, author of Media Guerilla, apparently agrees with my mom in his post Online Response Tactics 101.
I happen to agree with most of what he has to say, but it is interesting to discuss whether or not it is necessary for companies to engage in online conversations.
For the most part, I think it is important to have a relationship with your audience that goes beyond a 30-second commercial spot, but there isn't any reason to become best friends either.
The gray area is deciding whether or not responding to a flame is necessary. In many cases, readers in the blogosphere can correctly identify a post as purely flame, but it is possible that a small flame can spread into a brand bashing fire.
Extinguishing the fire can be impossible so my advice is to be involved with bloggers so they feel valued. This dialogue can be mutually beneficial by building an understanding that could prevent bloggers from playing with matches.
It is similar to the principle of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. Companies need to know what they are up against and staying active in online conversations does that.
And that is my last word!