hat do you use social media for?

There are nearly 1.4 billion Facebook users and 284 million active Twitter accounts, but what are we using our social media accounts for?

There’s the standard social activity of keeping up to date with friends and family; showing off our latest car, child, holiday and pictures of our homemade, carb-free, fat-free, fun-free dinner. Others use social media to keep up to date with the news or the Kardashians, as well as promoting a new blog post or to raise money for a charity skydive.

Businesses now heavily rely on social media to communicate with their customers and, as we know, the days of one-way conversations dominated by brands are long gone; social media is now used by many organisations as part of their customer service strategies.

The “Negative Nancy” side of Social Media

Sharing pictures of your new-born baby or tagging friends in a ‘hilarious’ cat video paints a pretty positive picture of social media, right? Okay, I know I’m being facetious – there’s internet ‘trolls’, horrid content, arguments and lying but there’s also another form of being a ‘Negative Nancy’ on social media.

A report from Ombudsman Services found that in 2014 there were more than 20 million complaints made across all sectors, which came through social media.

These stats make me wonder if social media is becoming less of a social platform and more of a waiting room filled with Victor Meldrew characters, chomping at the bit to find something to complain about. You know the types I’m referring to, we’ve probably all come across some sort of online dispute between a business and a disgruntled consumer, these can range from the outright absurd complaints:

“My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”

 To the more acceptable of complaints:

“The takeaway we ordered was cold, noodles over cooked and a very expensive takeaway option. Really disappointing as we loved the restaurant.”

A complaint made on social media can truly impact a business, if you read a Facebook review like the one above you may choose not to order a takeaway from that restaurant – but what if the restaurant actually uses social media to have a two-way conversation with their customer and rectified their mistake?

In fact the restaurant dealt with the complaint with an apology, redelivered the order (served hot and cooked to perfection) AND sent restaurant vouchers. Despite this exceptional service the complaint is still on social media, potentially putting off a number of would be diners, and the only thing slowly eating away will be the restaurant’s revenue stream; resulting in the restaurant closing down, staff loosing their jobs , unemployment statistics rising….(I could go on but you get the idea).

Maybe one complaint on social media wouldn’t have that level of impact, however, does the customer have a moral obligation to publicly praise the restaurants efforts, as they so publicly highlighted their mistake?

The customer in this story (which will get to the point soon, I promise) went back to their original post and updated it:

“The takeaway we ordered was cold, noodles over-cooked and a very expensive takeaway option. Really disappointing as we loved the restaurant. I am however hugely impressed that they got straight on it and called me in person to put things right! Great customer service!”

So what have we learnt from this tale? Social media is great for companies to use as part of their customer care strategies; social media is handy when, as a customer, you’ve been left disgruntled by a brand; social media is ALSO a place to praise a brand and keep them in business; social media is a great platform for sharing pictures of cats.

Consumers have a huge influence through the power of social media, so we mustn’t forget that with great power comes great responsibility – a moral social media responsibility.