Why So Much Complaining on Social Media?

It used to be that if you were upset or disappointed about a product or service, you’d have to send a letter to someone or call a 1-800 number. Niether approach offered much satisfaction, including the fact it made the consumer make a concerted effort.

Today, complaining is a snap. Not happy about an experience with a brand, just fire up a blog, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, and tell the world about your displeasure.

The low barrier to entry and the opportunity to reach a global audience has turned social media into a complaint central. Whether it’s a major issue or simply an aggravation, consumers have embraced social media to complain.

According a recent MarketTools survey, 34% of companies said consumers use social media to make a comment or complain about their products or services. What is more interesting is complaints made on Twitter or Facebook get a fairly high response.

It means that brands are listening to consumer complaints and reacting, which is exactly what consumers want them to do. For brands, social media can be a busy, challenging and sometimes treacherous medium for consumer complaints.

On other hand, they have to pay attention to what’s being said about their products or services. But there is so much activity, it can be impossible to engage with everyone.

Another issue that makes things more complicated is the high expectations by consumers who do complain. Since social media is a public medium, many companies have bent over backward to make consumers happy.

While this has pleased consumers, it has also encouraged more people to complain because they realize consumers are likely more willing to do more if a complaint arrives social media.

In many respects, however, it has created a vicious circle that many brands can’t escape.

So what do brands do about social complaining? How do they effectively respond to complaints without consuming too many resources or encouraging more people to complain because brands do too much to resolve a public issue?

One of the key is having well defined policies in place that identify, categorize and prioritize complaints. This will make it easier for companies to identify the most critical complaints so they can respond quickly and appropriately.

At the same time, there needs to be ways for companies to manage minor complaints in a way that not only lets a consumer know their complaint has been identified and acknowledged but leads to a forum to resolve their problems. It could be a forum, an FAQ, customer service representative or an e-mail address.

The bottom line when it comes to social complaining is it’s a fact of life that companies have to address. Often, the best approach that companies can take is make it clear they are listening, which is what many consumers really want.

For more insight into social media and customer service, the Marketwire/Sysomos Business Library has some free whitepapers.