Are Complaints the Biggest Social Media Traffic Drivers?

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Have you ever had the opportunity to moan about something via social media? Did you do it? Put your hand up if the answers yes… Was it the stale bread in your lunch time snack, a broken product or something that you purchased but it didn’t work or was it something bigger? Did you complain about bad service? We all love a good horror story; take my complaint about Virgin Media. I wrote a blog post about some of the most appalling service I’ve ever received. I completely vented my frustrations and within a few hours Virgin’s Twitter team had resolved the issue. But a blog post lasts forever. The post has had over 50,000 views and is easily found in the search engines. It’s had over 500 social shares across multiple networks. It’s one of my more popular posts. It would be easy to think that a post like this is what my readers are looking for; after all so many were supportive and others new to my blog shared their experience of Virgin’s customer service. It’s very tempting to write another post about poor service I have received from other businesses.

So let’s talk about the dark side of social media traffic

I work with Brands as well as small businesses to help them create and implement the right social media strategy for their business. If a company does their due diligence, they’ll find the Virgin Media post. They will see me bashing a Brand to good effect – it got a resolution to a problem. But does that mean they will want to work with me? Am I biting the hand that feeds me? Let’s look at it from their perspective. A company starts to follow me on Twitter. We interact a few times, start chatting and then they click on a link and find my site. They’re intrigued. Like all good social media marketers I provide lots of valuable content for free and they can read through and see that I really know my stuff. They will also see that one of my busiest posts is a post that shows how fed up I am with the responses from another company. They may feel empathy, they may feel annoyance or they may just lose a little respect for me.

Let’s take a quick look at how other people have made their complaints and what happened

Recently I read a post from a Mommy Blogger and PR expert on her very bad experience with Tesco’s (a national supermarket) home delivery service – if you scroll to just underneath the post you will see that this post got tremendous social media attention. Over 5,000 visits from StumbleUpon alone. The matter is now resolved and promises to change have been made, and the post updated to reflect the outcome. When a fellow contributor to Birds on the Blog experienced bad service from BT (a national telecoms company) a fewer amount of tweets and shares took place because BT social media team were responsive and nipped the viral potential in the bud. Well done BT, the post still got 20,000 views over a few days but BT handled the matter really well and resolved another outstanding issue in the comments of the post. Not all social media complaints get an easy resolution, just because you can blog and kick up a fuss it doesn’t mean you’ll get the outcome you desire. Compare Tesco’s behaviour with last year’s Mediocre Mum furore, where a mum purchased some social media training that wasn’t up to scratch – 350 tweets later it took reporting the company in question to the Advertising Standards Agency to get a resolution. Not a well-known brand, but a smaller business that was close to my heart – it was the launch pad for one of my earlier businesses. Six months after the incident, the site has been sold. If you are looking for traffic and love to complain, be careful because it can quickly spiral out of control. It’s not just bloggers that complain, it’s irate customers. Diva Jewellery (Australia) started to stock Playboy products aimed at Teens. Parents started to complain on Diva’s Facebook wall and Diva removed the complaints. Instead of addressing the parents concerns, they deleted them. Another social media fiasco resulting in pages of negative publicity across the web and customers badmouthing them for their poor product choice as well as their rudeness in deleting comments and concerns. And finally we’ve all heard of Paul Christoforo, the guy from Ocean Marketing whose flip responses rocked the online world a few months back. The guy will struggle to ever work again in marketing, and may find he will never work again. Just one Google from a prospective employer will send them running for the hills. I recommend you read the excellent post from Sonia Simone. She says “Most of the complaints you’ll find have nothing to do with products. If a product isn’t very good, customers will return it, but they don’t usually complain too bitterly about it. They start shouting in social media over lousy service much more often than they shout about lousy products.” If you are in business, great service is the way that you avoid bad social media traffic and the cost of a reputation management expert. If you experience bad service and are tempted to air it via social media, remember it can get out of hand and not all social traffic is great traffic. Have you or your company experienced the dark side of social media traffic? [social-bio]

Lilach Bullock
This monthly Social Media Traffic Generation column is contributed by Lilach Bullock. Lilach is highly regarded on the world speaker circuit and has graced Forbes and Number 10 Downing Street with her presence. In a nutshell, she’s a hugely connected and highly influential serial entrepreneur – the embodiment of Digital Intelligence. Listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers and likewise as one of the top social media power influencers, she is one of the most dynamic personalities in the social media market, she actively leverages ethical online marketing for her clients and for Comms Axis. A business owner, social media consultant, internet mentor and genuine digital guru, Lilach is consulted by journalists and regularly quoted in newspapers, business publications and marketing magazines. +Lilach Bullock
Lilach Bullock


Co-Founder of @CommsAxis with @danpurvis. #Digital #marketing, #socialmedia & #content agency. Get in touch today! Proud mum. #Zumba Tweets are mine
Content is King! Read How to Create Content That Will Get Lots of Shares on #SocialMedia - 1 hour ago
Lilach Bullock


  1. says

    Great post Lilach!

    It’s funny how complaints travel fast. I’ve always found that controversial blog posts (whether they be complaints or unconventional theories) are the posts that get the most comments and shares. People seem to engage more when it’s controversial. I’ve also learned in my marketing courses that negative word-of-mouth travels a lot faster than positive word of mouth. If someone receives a good service, it is expected, so they won’t share as much. They might tell 1 or 2 close friends, but that’s it. However, if someone receives a negative service, it is unexpected, and they feel like they’ve been “used” or betrayed by the company. Because of this, they feel compelled to tell everyone, and end up telling 8-10 friends. Now if they go on social media, these 8-10 friends can suddenly become thousands of people…

    And did Diva Jewellery actually release a Playboy product for teens? Where did they think that was gonna go? haha.

    • says

      Thanks Daniel:)

      You’re spot on – whenever I write a blog post that’s a little controversial or complaining it always generates more shares and comments.  Bad news always travels faster and more companies need to wake up to the power of how social media can damage a reputation literally overnight.

      I can’t even begin to imagine what Diva Jewellery were thinking – or maybe they thought all PR is good! :)

  2. says

    Lilach, I always thought brands paid attention only if the complaint came from an A-list blogger. Welcome to the A-list? 😉 And interesting you referenced the Ocean Marketing case, which went from bad to worse to bizarre. There was a lot of finger-pointing at the time concerning (yet another) example of bad marketing and public relations. But when you look further into people’s backgrounds (thank you LinkedIn), you may find the ink for marketing and public relations credentials is still a bit wet. In fact Paul Christoforo states in the Forbes piece that he was a sales guy paid on a commission basis. The Internet and social media is evolving corporate roles with the convergence of marketing, PR and customer service.  And now add sales.  The Ocean Marketing fiasco is a perfect example that counters the notion “anyone can do this.” Companies should be careful with a one-size-fits-all approach to resource application.

    • says

      Thanks Joel:)

      Yes the Ocean Marketing fiasco case is a good example!  I also completely agree with you “Companies should be careful with a one-size-fits-all approach”  

  3. says

     Another interesting post from you Lilach, where I can share my thoughts.

    Indeed, complaints are just easy to be known, read and spread. It can greatly affect your company’s reputation. Thus, if you are a company that wants an improvement you will never risk having bad complaints. On the other side, it serves as a challenge to your firm on how to handle on these without over reacting on the situation. It gives you an opportunity to be heard and explain your side and addressing and solving it in the best way it should be.

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