Thirty years ago, an unhappy consumer would have to pick up the phone and call a customer service hotline to complain about a company. Now, customers can attack brands on multiple websites and applications from the palm of their hand. It’s a trend that has taken rise with the growing influence of social media, leading to what many refer to as “the empowered consumer.”

This emergence of smart phones and social media platforms has created a public platform for customers to air their grievances, giving them more power than ever before to make or break a brand. So, what can PR and marketing teams do to help protect their company’s reputation? Well, you must be willing to engage with customers and show them you care.

But, before you start replying to commenters left and right, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

    An unhelpful response is worse than no response at all. Regardless of the outcome, a major objective in publicly responding to complaints on social media is to demonstrate to others that you’re trying to fix a problem – so make sure your response sounds genuine and humble. In other words, stay away from canned corporate jargon and don’t be afraid to apologize. After all, social media is all about authenticity, right?


  2. Keep your cool.

    Many disgruntled customers are looking for ways to amplify their anger. According to a report by Sprout Social, about 70 percent of people who call out brands on social media just want other customers to be aware and another 51 percent want to raise awareness among media outlets. It can be overwhelming to see this kind of negative attention, but it’s important to stay calm knowing that the wrong response could escalate the situation. Your job is to tame the fire, not fuel it.

  3. It’s not about winning back the customer.

    Protecting your brand is the main priority. A customer complaining online may not return or buy a product from you again, but thousands of other consumers could be watching the conversation. They see you engaged and trying to fix the problem. Even though this one person may have had an issue, the fact that you are actively involved and taking ownership can be a relief for others to see. At the end of the day, people want to feel safe with your brand. If something goes wrong, they want to know that you will care and be there to help.


Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary says it best: “You’re doing everything you possibly can to make it right, and people see it – they’re not stupid. Even though the customer never comes back, they see you care.”

Monitoring your social media channels for complaints is a necessary evil, but it can also be time-consuming. We have a lot of experience in social media and issues management. Contact us here if you need any help!

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Posted By Jessie Beach

Jessie is a UNC grad who loves to eat, travel and watch an unhealthy amount of reality TV. When she’s not binge-watching the Real Housewives and channeling her inner Olivia Pope with a large bowl of popcorn and glass of wine, Jessie can be found curling up with a good book and her two dogs Java and Bailey.