Ken Hittel, VP Corporate Internet, at New York Life Insurance Company (NYL), a client of FairWinds, did a great interview for this week about social networking. Hittel expertly argues that allowing consumers to speak freely, even negatively, on social networks has actually helped NYL build a positive brand presence.

He explains that the few negative comments that have appeared have been drowned out by a chorus of positive comments from loyal customers. Essentially, negative comments are an opportunity for the community to unite around the brand, and as a result, build up the brand’s image. The leap of faith involved in exposing a brand to the uncensored openness of social media may seem risky, but working for an insurance company, Hittel is used to managing risks. His approach has paid off, with NYL’s Facebook fan base closing in on 100,000 members.

Hittel also points out that brands, even if they feel they are not “ready” for social media, need to be on Facebook and Twitter. The best approach, he says, is not to try to control social media, but rather to manage it by being present and participating in it. At FairWinds, we know that it all starts with getting there, and being where your customers are looking for you, by owning the best usernames and handles.

Congratulations to Ken on all his success!