How Social Media Sites Have Given Consumers A Powerful Voice

Social Media Sites

Image by ‘Allio’

There is no doubting the multi-faceted way that social media sites have reshaped how the world connects and the reasons we connect.

Off the top of my head, on a personal level I have used social media sites to share photos and memories with my family and friends, arrange events, network with like minded business people, find new customers, track down family members and trace family history, help other people, look for recommendations on products and services and last but not least CUSTOMER SERVICE (or should I say ‘complaints’)

Use Social Media Sites To Express Your Views

One of the greatest things I think social media sites have done for people, is to force big brands and services to sit up, take notice and have accountability!

Today people don’t think twice to go looking to Twitter for a corporate account of a company if they are having a problem or a question that they need answering. I say this confidently because I personally have done so with 3 large companies in the UK.

Let’s be honest, we all get frustrated being on ‘hold’ for a long time, and eventually being transferred to a call centre outside of your geographical area, (if at all) A ‘letter of complaint’ can often fall on deaf ears with response times being less than what we consumers deem acceptable.

Today taking to Twitter and using 140 characters to air our ‘frustrations’ seems to be a far more powerful and effective way to get the attention of the company in question, and more importantly obtain a response in a timely manner.

I’m a BIG fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and to quote him on this subject

“I genuinely believe that any business can create a competitive advantage through giving outstanding customer care”

Like most things Gary speaks about, he’s raising a REAL point.

My Own Experience

I’d like to, if I may, give you a scenario that I was recently in with a large UK parcel delivery company:

I’d been trying to get a parcel delivered to my workplace for over 1 week! Having made numerous calls, checking online, giving crystal clear delivery instructions to the exact location of my office, after 8 days I was starting to get a little bit ‘irritated’ by the whole situation!

Things kind of came to a head when I made a call on day 8 of the parcel not being delivered, and I found myself on the end of a phone line that went dead.

What did I do?

I took to my personal Twitter account to ‘voice’ my upset. Within 10 minutes I had a response from their customer service Twitter team and within 1 hour of that Tweet that I had sent, the problem with the delivery was being sorted as a priority.

Within 1 hour, the company had managed to turn me from an unhappy customer into a pacified customer, happy that finally someone had managed to sort out my problem.

Why Does It Work?

Why do businesses (irrespective of size) respond better to unhappy customers and queries online, than that of a phone call? I’m no expert here, but the fact that you all have a social media footprint, the mud can kind of stick!

Think about it. Anyone searching through Twitter’s dynamic search engine, means that my Tweets would have been seen by ANYONE searching that company name. That makes it VERY important that my complaint was handled in a timely manner.

Because of the speed that social media sites work at, as frequent users of the system we know we are going to get a more swift reply if we use this as our medium to communicate with the businesses in question, but more importantly than that, the businesses can benefit by publicly showing how good they are at delivering good customer service.

More people are searching via social media sites – that is a fact of this web 2.0 world, and more people are communicating because of it.

So for a business it makes sense to have a presence where their audience and customers are so that when problems do arise they have a chance to change their unhappy customers perception and also maintain their reputation.

On the other end of the scale, my family business (which is a London based print and graphic design studio) have a very active social media presence (thanks to me for maintaining it) and sure, we have had customers who are a little bit unhinged when a problem has arisen or a parcel has been delayed, or a print job has gone wrong. The trick to it (in my opinion) is obvious – treat others how you wish to be treated. We do our level best to go above and beyond the level of service in both the positive and the negative situations we find with clients.

Social media sites have encouraged more personal recommendations and referrals on GOOD services. In the past, people generally only tended to tell their friends and family about the bad experiences, but now thanks to social media sites, people are leaving a footprint of glorious updates, recommendations, and referrals when they have been more than pleased with a service!

All of which, any company can use to their advantage – as long as you have it documented / saved (favourite ALL positive tweets) then these can be used as customer testimonials for the future.

There is nothing more rewarding than reviewing your favourite tweets or reading your glorious recommendations via LinkedIn or Facebook every now and then as a reminder of the great achievements your business has made.

I would recommend that if you were using social media sites to connect with people and generate new leads for your business, that you seriously spend time looking at how you can enhance your current customer service level to your customers. Don’t be worried if you see a complaint or unhappy update towards your business, don’t ignore it, spend time to understand the issues and then get it sorted in a timely manner.

The last tip I would give is to let your audience know that you have dedicated customer service that includes social media as a way of making contact!

About Clair Trebes

Clair is an internet marketer based in London, UK. running her site ThisIsClairTrebes as a way to teach people about social media and help them build their business online. You can learn more by following her on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

  • Gary V is definitely really smart about using social media to your advantage by really connecting with customers. Rather than having people complaining about your company on Facebook and Twitter, why not connect with them there, help them solve their problems and get them to praise you to their friends 🙂


    • Hi Thomas! I suppose it’s just common sense now, that companies need to improve their customer service, due to the impact that social media can have. If social media can be responsible for the ‘Arab Spring’, then it would be no problem to cause problems for companies!

      Like you say, companies just need to connect with, help solve their problems and get them to recommend them to their friends. That’s the best advertising that you could get.

      Yes, Gary V is a great person to learn from regarding social media. I’m a big fan of his!

  • Andi Leeman

    Great post Clair, I believe more and more people are using social media to vent their frustrations and these can be seen worldwide. Before it was a few people in a shop or pub now frustrations can go viral and go worldwide so the big companies have had to stand up and take notice. It is great for companies to engage more with customers and as you know, it creates jobs for people. Another win win situation worldwide if done properly.


    • Clair did a great job writing this guest post for us.

      Just helps to show how powerful social media can be. Companies are becoming more aware of the fact that they need to pay more attention to their customers, as now they have a global voice. Annoy or mistreat one customer and that could heavily damage their reputation.

      Thanks for the comment Andi!

  • John Banks

    Really great post. I think the kind of social media use is becoming more and more common now. Another point to make regarding the Twitter use, lets say you have a complaint, or even some negative feedback, this can be seen by everyone. Not good for your business, what has also come out of this is an opportunity for you to ‘fix’ it and show you care. You will often win more customers showing that you can deal with a problem and that you can respond to negative feedback. And, if you make your dealings public then this will obviously add good exposure.

    • That’s a good point John! Companies can turn their negative comments into positives by dealing with them effectively. Perhaps this will become the best way to judge whether a company is a good one or not.

      Thanks for the comment John

  • Clair Trebes

    Thanks for the comments 🙂 Social Media certainly has given the consumer more power, and I believe that this is a positive thing. Businesses take it seriously and want to work with their customers now in a more positive way to not only satisfy customer issues, but also make their brand more credible and professional from the outset!

    • Hi Clair! Thanks again for such a great guest post.

      Just shows how far social media has come in such a short time. No longer is it just about chatting and keeping up to date with friends. Companies are taking notice that people can express their unhappiness at the way that they are treated. And of course, social media was the catalyst to the whole Arab Spring!

      People that say social media is just a fad (I still hear people saying this) don’t understand how powerful it is.

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