Are you a social media complainer? Do you use the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to vent your spleen at companies that have let you down? If so, you’re one of millions of people who eschew the traditional letter of complaint or irate phone call, choosing instead to air grievances on a public forum.
A cursory Google of the term ‘social complainer’ yields multiple results, from ‘The 5 Types of Social Media Complainers’ to ‘How to Deal With the Worst Social Media Complainers’. There’s even a guide to the ‘Five Complainer-Customer Personas’.
Today’s Twitter fury over the United Airlines customer who was booted off a plane to make way for crew demonstrates the damage that social media can do to a business’s brand. Footage of the incident has been shared across the world, forcing United into what PRs call emergency crisis management. Many people are threatening to boycott the airline.
While the whole story behind the ejection of United’s passenger has yet to emerge, the incident is sure to haunt the company. People know the power of social media – and they’re willing to use it.
Perhaps not surprisingly new research suggests that complaining online yields results. According to the comparison site Gocompare.com, 15 per cent of UK adults have complained via social media and 55 per cent of those said that having done so their issue was resolved quickly. Some 28 per cent subsequently received money off or goodwill gifts totalling £65 million, an average of around £32 each.
The study also found that men were more likely to use social media platforms to challenge brands, with 16 per cent complaining via social media compared to 14 per cent of women. However, women had better luck with their complaints with 58 per cent saying their issue was resolved compared to 52 per cent of men.
On the flip side, more than a quarter of UK consumers have also used social media to praise companies, suggesting that consumers are more likely to share their positive experiences than their negative ones.
Gocompare.com’s head of money Matt Sanders said: ‘Many companies now use social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to build greater engagement with their customers. As this research highlights, consumers are becoming savvier, demanding a higher quality of customer service and taking the conversation out of the control of brands.
‘Many people dislike confrontation and find complaining in person or over the phone quite difficult, even when their consumer rights are being ignored. Whether you’re a seasoned complainer, or uncomfortable about calling out a poor product or service, using social media is an increasingly common and, for many consumers, successful way of getting your issue resolved.’
Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator