In February, Facebook launched an application called Sponsored Stories. The way Sponsored Stories works is that brands turn user activity into a sponsored newsfeed. When your friend checks into Starbucks for example (as so many of us do every morning), it shows up in your friend’s newsfeed. Sponsored Stories essentially automates word-of-mouth referral for your company.

The strength of Sponsored Stories, as with any social media experience, is its ease of use, access speed, and the opportunity for customer expression. As we discuss in our case study “What Drives Value in the Social Media Experience”, “customers feel, think, need and decide about a company based on what they experience in the social media space.” This includes what others say about it in social communities like Facebook.

The weakness of Sponsored Stories, as Ben Pharr notes in Mashable, is that “advertisers don’t control the content that appears in the advertisement [the sponsored newsfeed].” The same benefits of social media – ease of use and speed – can easily become your company’s worst nightmare when customers express dissatisfaction with your product. If you haven’t seen the infamous YouTube clip, “United Broke my Guitar,” now is the time to watch it.

In short, since the customer is in total control of the story, your company has to be sure that the customer experience is consistently positive.

So how can you prevent customer relation fiascos like “United Breaks Guitars” while taking advantage of social media’s potential? Developers specifically created the Wildfire Storyteller Application to meet this need.

Wildfire helps your company set the tone for how the customer tells their stories about their experiences with your brand. Upon opening the app, users are presented with a new tab. On this tab, your company can ask a pointed question like, “What’s your favorite morning drink at Starbucks?” Personally, I would rather hear “I love the Starbucks Chai Latte,” in place of “I went to Starbucks this morning.”

Your company can add videos or photos to enhance the customer story. User submitted photos of customers enjoying their favorite beverages send a powerful message to your brand’s network.

In addition to livening up sponsored content, Wildfire allows its followers to view the activity of all participants on the page. The benefits of this approach are that it meets several of the seven desirable attributes we found for social media users: entertaining content, the use of pictures, helpfulness of links posted by others and the ability to make new contacts.

Wildfire creates a community of brand loyalists and gives customers an opportunity to express themselves while allowing you to have peace-of-mind (there is an option to filter negative comments from appearing in Facebook advertisements).

The results are compelling. Wildfire’s mini-stories elicit an impressive 17% conversion rate, whereas conventional Facebook ads boast a much lower 3.3% conversion rate.