Why people tend to complain on social media rather than to the brand themselves?

25 July 2022
5 min read
Featured Image

Remember this?

Of course you do if you have been chronically online lurking on twitter especially when this…whole fiasco took place. There were several instances when people have been FLAMING a brand on a social platform and that they went viral. Along with that, other people also tag along the viral posts to express their non-pleasant experience with the said brand, or maybe express their disagreement towards the main topic at hand (more less often than the former of course or they’re probably buzzers paid to defend the brand but it’s an entirely different topic).

Seeing people posting complaints on public platforms led me to this question: why do they post their complaints, instead of contacting the customer service for help? My observation/assumptions are because:

  1. They find the response from the customer service to be unsatisfactory
  2. Sense of validation when their post went viral and a lot of people were on the same boat
  3. Shaming someone give us some sort of, in Khadija Mbowe’s word in her video essay, “instant gratification for putting someone or something in their place”

However, posting complaints online can also potentially backfire….no? They can even dwindle into lawsuits, especially when nowadays the sheer definition of “pencemaran nama baik” is in its own blurred lines. There’s a bloodbath everyday online in some corner of the whole social media world, people offend and get offended 24/7. Do people think as far as repercussions when posting complaints online, especially against big brands that have all resources required available to monitor their consumer behavior online AND to even file lawsuits?

Then what does this say about people’s tendency in online discourses to shame and embarrass people online? And when all is said and done, considering digital footprint, is anything reversible? Are we truly doing this for good or do we just want to be right and loud, and if many people follow it, it somehow increases our validation?

But it takes two to tango, right? At the end of the day, it is a brand’s duty to give the best service and provide the best quality of their products to their consumers, and excellent customer service does not escape that. However, I also find it peculiar how social media can be a double edged sword: social media can be a good PR tool. Brands can get closer to their audience, and can also spread messages easily. However, whenever someone shares a complaint, who knows in how short a period of time it can haywire into, eventually, an actual crisis. Therefore, this is where a social media admin’s important role comes to play.

In terms of the admin's capability in handling the crisis, Václav Stříteský stated in his paper, “In order to mitigate and even anticipate the crisis, it is crucial that [a social media] admin is closely integrated with other departments in the organization.” In my opinion, other than being integrated with the company’s ecosystem, their response will also reflect how this company wants to be perceived by the general public. Therefore, taking time to choose a response and handling the crisis meticulously and carefully is important. Not choosing a response carefully could even escalate the crisis. A lot of companies rely on templates for replying inquiries, but it can potentially backfire. In the same paper, based on the research conducted to Czech Republic’s Facebook users, the main reason why customers are disappointed in a customer service’s response is because they are answering with an obvious, pre-defined answer. Then, how should an admin handle a complaint? 

To handle a crisis well, is to know your consumer’s behavior, which brings us back to my initial question: what are the main factors for customers to post complaints on social media? Most of the respondents in Stříteský’s paper answered “Other people should know about the issue too.” Interestingly, complaining IS “a pervasive and important form of social communication”--psychology professor Mark Alicke noted in a 1992 study (via The Conversation). Another driving reason behind posting a complaint is because customers can leverage this opportunity to make the company “save face” and be more generous in their compensation, and get a faster response than a traditional hotline. Another take on this is “downward comparison”, which is an idea articulated by social psychologist Leon Festinger, that it is one of the ways in boosting their self-esteem by putting others down. Whew, so it’s companies vs. people’s sense of community and their nature in elevating themselves through public platforms, yeah?

However, in my opinion, it does not always have to be like that. If companies want to appear that they genuinely care about the customers’ complaints, in handling humans, they HAVE to be human as well. They have to see them on equal grounds, and treat them with mutual respect. Stříteský also listed some of the ways in handling crises as well, and some of them are “[staying] nice, no matter what.”, “openness and authenticity”, and “avoid computer speech, stay human”. 

At the end of the day, by design, we are social beings that live off by a sense of community, and feel fulfilled when our concerns are validated by many. Also, when we receive less than what we deserve, in this case, the product or service that we paid for, as a customer we deserve an explanation or commitment of improvement from the brands or companies involved. However, in terms of blasting our concerns on a large, public platform(s), it wouldn’t hurt us to be more mindful in what we do and consider the repercussions. 


https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307689972_COMPLAINING_BEHAVIOUR_IN_SOCIAL_MEDIA https://theconversation.com/what-our-negative-comments-and-consumer-gripes-on-social-media-reveal-about-us-175148


We would be more than happy to listen to your story, so don't hesitate to contact us!



We would be more than happy to listen to your story, so don't hesitate to contact us!

Back to top Arrow