How quickly can and should companies react to a social media firestorm? We have an interesting case study this week. Bloggers and tweeters unleashed a barrage of criticism on J.C. Penney this week, after it began selling a back-to-school t-shirt that read, "I'm too pretty to do my homework, so my brother does it for me." You can imagine how people reacted to this shirt. To their credit, the retailer reacted within just a few hours to the controversy that erupted via social media, and they pulled the shirt. What's the lesson from the story? Most would say that you should anticipate such controversies and avoid them. I would argue that it's nearly impossible to avoid all such controversies. If you never experience one, you probably aren't doing anything fun or exciting with your products. The key for any company is to TRY to avoid them, but to ACKNOWLEDGE that you won't prevent them all. Then, you need to establish a monitoring process for detecting social media controversy and a rapid response mechanism for addressing such a firestorm.