The beauty of social media is sharing our experiences with others. Each day I learn new things about you and the things you care about. Inevitably I end up more educated on a wide range of topics and find new things I care about, too. I love learning from you!
When interacting with others and sharing our thoughts online, we all have a voice. It doesn’t matter if you have 5 followers or 5,000, people are listening.
Technology is a game-changer.
Back in the day (you know, like three years ago) customer service trainings would warn companies that customers will share positive experiences with 2-3 people, but an “upset customer” will share with 9-15 people.
I’m sure anyone who spends time in social media will agree there’s been a significant change in the last few years in terms of the customer experience. This stems from advances in technology giving us both immediacy and amplification.
Immediacy: Our friends are only a hyper-moment away. Smart phones have brought real-time sharing of customer experiences. We commonly share where we are, what we are doing and how it’s going. Foursquare and Twitter encourage this moment-by-moment publishing of our lives.
When we are angry and feel like we are being treated poorly, we may choose to immediately vent our frustration and anger with friends… in the heat of the moment.
Amplification: I’d argue the ratio of people complaining five times as often as they give compliments is still valid. The difference now is our networks are dramatically bigger.
The average Facebook user has 130 friends. Twitter numbers are harder to nail down because the majority of users abandon their account within a month or so. The average users, at my best estimate, have between 200 to 2,000 followers.
When you complain, people listen.
There was a lot of chatter a few weeks ago when Bob Harper (pseudo-celeb from The Biggest Loser) tweeted out a complaint when he couldn’t get a table at a hot restaurant:
“OMG!! The manager at Bar Lagrasa in Minneapolis was SO RUDE to me. I wanted to have dinner there. Why are people so mean sometimes?”
Dramatic, right? I watched it unfold. Of his 130k Twitter followers, many retweeted it (shared it with their followers). A lot of people publicly supported him and vowed never to eat at Bar La Grassa. According to the manager, 15 people called in Bob’s defense. A week or so later, a behind-the-scenes account of the story was printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that told the real story – exposing Bob the trainer as nothing short of a whining egomaniac.
I see people in my network acting like Bob – every day. Some are general comments about companies. Some are more specific and call out employee names in specific departments of a store. In fact, I’ve even seen people call out their ex-lovers on Twitter and Facebook – with the goal of publicly humiliating them.
There are two sides to every story. In Bob’s case, the restaurant admitted they wouldn’t give Bob a table – because they were packed. However, they also offered his American Express concierge (the person actually making the call) other options. But he didn’t give the full story in his tweets.
Shouting from your social media rooftop.
That brings me to the question… do we have a responsibility to use our voices carefully online? If you complain online frequently, especially in the heat of the moment, I challenge you to take a step back and think about the impression it gives to everyone around you.
Not because I’m out to protect the brand of every company that provides bad service. Of course there are positive things that can happen from complaining online. Many would argue it gives companies an opportunity to repair a relationship. That said, I believe there are often more constructive ways to be heard than shouting loudly from your social media rooftop.
Bottom line: There comes a point when your complaints reflect more poorly on you than the company you are complaining about.
As you can tell, I’ve been chewing on this topic for awhile now and discussing it with others as I’ve been grappling with the tension of how much complaining online is healthy for our commerce v. how much is simply whining.
I’m careful with my words online, but that doesn’t mean that all complaints are off-limits either. In my next post, I’ll cover my personal policy on complaining in social media. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.