Content Marketing Blog

How tweeting your customers can lead to more complaints [STUDY]

Brands are often encouraged to embrace Twitter and other leading social media sites as a means of connecting with their customers.

If someone is unhappy, fix their problem in full view of the world and you show everyone that you care. You can turn the negative experience of one customer into a positive experience for your brand.

But it’s not always that simple. Research published in the journal Marketing Science suggests that publicly responding to customer complaints on Twitter can sometimes lead to more complaints.

Once your brand starts reacting to unhappy tweets it can encourage more customers to jump on the bandwagon.

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“People complain on Twitter not just to vent their frustration,” the researchers said. “They do that also in the hope of getting the company’s attention. Once they know the company is paying attention, they are more ready to complain the next time around.”

In the pre-Twitter era, complaining took some level of commitment. You might have to battle through layer after layer call centre staff or write and mail out a whole series of letters before getting a response, nevermind a compensatory freebie.

Nowadays complaining is just a tweet away. Didn’t enjoy your pizza? You might get a discount for next time if you can spare a few seconds to share your experience with the Twittersphere.

As well as encouraging more complaints, brands face other bear traps on Twitter. The researchers found that companies could often get a skewed picture of how their products or services were perceived if they relied to heavily on social media.

A problem that a brand tackles publicly on Twitter leads to more customers coming forward with the same complaint, which can mean the scale or seriousness of that particular issue gets exaggerated. The researchers called this the “squeaky wheel” effect.

As well as the negative publicity from drawing attention to a mistake or failing, brands could get distracted from other customer service problems that also need their attention.

Despite these potential drawbacks, the researchers concluded that the potential upside for brands meant complaint handling on Twitter was still a good idea.

Even if it does lead to some frivolous complaints, as well as encouraging people to share their negative experience publicly when they otherwise might not have done, Twitter provides an opportunity for companies to strengthen their customer relationships.

Twitter and other social media sites give brands a chance to join the discussion not just when something has gone wrong, but also when people are asking relevant questions or researching related topics.

Social media is one of the channels modern customers use to research products and services before they make a purchase decision. Building a presence on relevant social platforms gives brands an opportunity to access this crucial pre-decision phase.

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Adam Barber
Adam Barber About the author

Adam is one of Castleford's founders and remains actively involved in the day-to-day running of the business. He started out as writer and still contributes regularly to our blog, covering SEO, CRO, social media and digital strategy.

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