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Andy Williams

How Social Media Has Changed The Way We Complain

25th Feb 2013 Brand, Reputation Management 8 minutes to read

Angry PersonAlternatively: Why All Companies Need To Be On Top Of Their Game 24hrs a Day in The Modern World.

Back in the good old days before the internet and social media there weren’t that many places you could complain, certainly not that publicly anyway.

All complaints would largely be in the form of a phone call, a letter or maybe even an ad hoc visit, but your complaint was very much between you and them.

There was no public hanging for providing a bad service unless it got to the press. There was an element of being able to keep things quiet.

Then along came the internet, review sites, forums, blogging and of course social media.

Now there is no hiding place.

Forums and review sites gave people the chance to share their opinions and experiences but this still meant that your thoughts were largely hidden away.

Blogging has allowed people to rant to an even bigger audience, but now we have social media and this has now changed the way we complain.

Social has made it too easy to comment on anything and everything and it has become part of life that you own a Twitter or Facebook account. Apps are available for you to use these platforms on the go. Updating these accounts for most is a daily occurrence and just part of what you do.

So the fact that we now use these platforms to complain shouldn’t be a shock.

We do it without even thinking about it. Suddenly all these brands are contactable. We can visit their profiles and leave comments; we can include their handle in a Tweet and talk to them directly.

To a large extent the fact that this can be done pretty facelessly only serves to further encourage us to have a dig at any brand or company that has upset us. Sure it comes via our profiles for all to see but we don’t have to talk to them while having a rant meaning that even the most timid of us can join in without the fear or having to actually talk to anyone.

This is a huge game changer for all online businesses.

Whether you have a social presence or not people are talking about you and they may be complaining about you.

As a result the pressure is now on to perform 24 hours a day. You are constantly under the microscope. One bad move and the world could know about it in real-time.

The ease in which platforms like Twitter have made it to complain is actually amazing. If you have a program like Tweetdeck open it takes nothing more than opening it, tweeting your 140 message, including the said brand’s handle and pressing enter. You can complain directly to a brand in literally seconds. No phone call, no composed letter, no stamps, just a quick tweet.

I have turned to social in search of a quick solution many times and who wouldn’t it’s so easy.

It was far easier to tweet Save The Children about the amount of nuisance calls I was getting each day than go through the process of trying to ring them, speak to someone and ask for my name to be taken off their database.


The result, as you can see, was quick and I haven’t had a call from them since.

Save The Children clearly monitor their brand perfectly and acting on my complaint rather than ignoring me won me back round. Issue sorted, no hard feelings.

The action of tweeting my grievance was natural, I didn’t really think twice about it. The alternative would have been more long winded and I possibly wouldn’t have done it. But it was natural having received yet another unwanted call to tweet them.

Of course people don’t always get it right

There is now an infamous story of an irate set of Tottenham Hotspur fans sending out a barrage of abuse to Sir Chris Hoy following an incident during their match against Stoke City.

The referee for that match was one Chris Foy. Some of his decisions were slightly off the mark according to these angry Tottenham fans, who decided that the best course of action was to bombard him with abuse on Twitter.

The only problem is they all sent their messages of anger to Sir Chris Hoy.

Chris Hoy took it all in spirit and confirmed on Twitter that he didn’t need glasses.

Chris Hoy Tweet

The moral of the story is clearly “always do your research” before entering into an online confrontation.

Joking aside what I am looking to highlight is the sheer ease in which people these days will now jump online and rant or complain and if they are ranting at a certain person or company they will now naturally target them directly – because they can.

Chris Foy doesn’t even have a Twitter account, but these days it is assumed that everyone is online. These Tottenham fans instantly went to Twitter and targeted (who they thought was) Chris Foy.

This is how people act these days.

Look at Facebook, people don’t think twice about airing their views on there either.

There is also an air of never seen before anger now that people have such easy access to brands. The fact that people can hang up the phone from a bad customer service call and tweet about it within 30 seconds means there is no cooling off period. The reaction is an instant, angry reaction.

You can now walk out of a restaurant on the back of a poor meal and complain. You can even write a review on sites like Yelp on your way back to the car. If you really wanted to you can tweet while sat at your table.

This really is a game changer for businesses. It’s a reality that everyone needs to face up to.

Social Media Has Changed Everything

Give people a platform to speak and they will speak

Give people a platform to speak and they will think they have something worth hearing

The world now has a voice at the touch of a button.

This power also makes it very easy to become a voice of authority on social platforms. Anyone can do it. How often have you followed someone on Twitter and after a certain amount of time started to trust everything they report on?

I know I have while following sport related lists I have created. You can see the conversations going on. People start to trust certain people and before you know it they are seen as “in the knows” or authority figures.

In reality they have no true credentials to back up what they say is right.

However these figures exist and these people are another dimension business need to worry about. If these guys start complaining about you then all hell could break loose.

I have an online business – what the hell should I be doing about this?

You need to have a plan.

With this ease of complaining you are pretty much on show 24 hours a day.

First and foremost make sure what you do is excellent. Makes sure what you offer is excellent.

However we are all human and sometimes things aren’t excellent – so make sure your customer service is excellent.

Let’s face it, by being excellent you drastically reduce the chances of people complaining about you.

Although the reality is that no matter how excellent you are – someone will always complain.

You need that plan.

You need to be online, you need to be in the places that people are talking about you.,

You need to be showcasing your customer service.

And you certainly need to be social.

However, just deciding you are going to go social isn’t enough.

You need to be serious about getting involved. There is no doubt that you need to but you need to understand why.

You need to understand why you need to have a voice, why you need to be on these platforms engaging with people talking about your brand or company.

Create a profile on all social platforms, build up your brand, engage and provide customer service. Address complains, provide an answer.

If you are unable to throw full time engagement at social, have a set time each day that you work on it and by working on social; I mean being social as well as monitoring what people are saying about you and your brand.

Delegate a few people to this task. The danger you can have with giving everyone access is that not everyone is speaking to the same company line. So make sure everyone is in line.

Never give something for nothing

Don’t offer something for nothing. Just because someone has complained doesn’t mean they are right. How you deal with the situation is key. If you start giving things away for free to “shut them up” or “win them round” you will be setting yourself up for copycat complaints. If all it takes to get a free meal is to publicly complain about your restaurant then everyone will be doing it. You will end up out of pocket and facing a number of reviews online for all to see that could potentially stop people coming in the first place.

Be seen to be addressing comments that come your way. Reach out. Try and solve the problem the customer may have. If they had a bad experience with you then learn something from it.

Do not start a fight with them.

This is in the public domain. How you deal with people is there for everyone to see.

You may not feel have the man hours to be able to throw time at social but you need to put some time into it.

Actually you have no choice.

Those who work with social will survive those who don’t, (quite possibly) won’t.

People are online talking about you right now.

No seriously, they are.

See for yourself.

Go to Twitter right now https://twitter.com/search and type in your brand name or brand specific products and see if anyone is talking about you.

And if people aren’t talking about you – why aren’t they?

Well that is a totally different blog post.

For now download our free Brand Monitoring Whitepaper below and get started now before it is too late.

Image Credit:

Angry Person from BigStock Photo

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Andy Williams

Andy Williams will be giving you useful insights into local search and the overall SEO landscape. Andy has over 10 years experience in the SEO industry including 2 years as the in-house SEO consultant with a leading Web Design company.

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