Blogs, Twitter and social media in general are supposed to be a good early warning system, which can call attention to issues, before they turn into a real PR headache. The extra time should then be used to address the problem at a very early stage. At least that is one of the arguments why companies and brands should not ingore those services, despite their still low adoption in the user mainstream.
To see if this argument holds any water, I will try a little prediction: German chipmaker Infineon is about to face a major PR crisis on a global scale!!
You can't find anything about it on mainstream media just yet (Google News US and DE). But it will come. And the reason is best symbolized by this picture (from CrunchGear):
The iPhone 3G is supposed to have just that: 3G. But whenever I switch on 3G, I get a lousy reception and the phone quickly switches back to GSM, once I enter a building. It looks like, I am not the only one having this problem. So far, everyone has put the blame on the most likely culprit: the network operators - AT&T, T-Mobile etc. But that's about to change. According to an analyst with Nomura those problems are caused by a major flaw in the chipset (from Cnet):
"We believe that these issues are typical of an immature chipset and radio protocol stack where we are almost certain that Infineon is the 3G supplier,"
"This is not surprising as the Infineon 3G chipset solution has never really been tested in the hands of users. Some people will not experience these problems as it is only in areas where the radio signal weakens that the immaturity of the stack really shows."
He "believes" that this is the problem and is "almost certain" that it is Infineon's fault. Being 100% sure about something sounds different.
But anyway, the story is already making the rounds on sites like GigaOm or Slashdot. Twitter - which is like an early early warning system, because it is so fast - already shows that this meme is picking up steam. Currently more and more blogs are writing about it (Google Blogsearch, Technorati). Sooner or later the story will show up on Digg, Yahoo Buzz, Google Hot Trends... and so on...
What should Infineon do right now? That depends on what is really the case.
If the story is not true, Infineon now has the opportunity to dispel this rumor before it shows up in mainstream media. But they have to act very quickly. If it is true, but the problem can be solved easily e.g. by a firmware update, then Infineon and Apple should make this clear now and try to quiet the mob, before everything spins out of control.
But what if the story is true and the problem can only be solved by changing the chipset? What can Infineon do then? Well, I don't know... run for the hills...!?
Update: Infineon's situation is even more complicated than I thought. As Thomas Knüwer points out, they aren't able to say anything. Because of their contracts with Apple, suppliers for the iPhone are not even allowed to admit that they are supplying parts for the iPhone. So as long as Apple isn't saying otherwise, Infineon's only response to inquires has to be "No Comment". Tough luck.