Social media misbehavior

It’s undeniable that social media are giving users enormous power to express themselves. In the blink of a click, you can Tweet or post about your latest flight experience, say how much you loved the service at that little Italian restaurant yesterday, or how amazing the new Starbucks frappucino flavor is. Fantastic.


Alternately, you can vent your disappointments, frustrations and bad experiences just as easily, and why should you refrain from it? In the end, constructive complaints might very well be helpful and push companies to improve, right? Well this is what most savvy and well-behaved people are going to do, or at least say they do.

Then you have those abusing the power that social media gives them. Rambling about whatever they might get frustrated about. Using social media as outlets for their personal issues and targeting their anger at whatever strikes their fancy.  As a company, you better not be in the way when that happens!

Recent research on the topic of brand hate has led me to spend a substantive amount of time on Facebook pages, groups, forums and sites dedicated to hating brands, celebrities, people, companies or products. You would not believe the amount of inappropriate language, obscene pictures, abusive and sexual talk, or just plain nonsense chat that is posted on these platforms.

I am 100% for the empowerment of customers, don’t get me wrong. But in return for the freedom of expression that is given to us, it is essential for us to learn how to make  good use of it. It is our duty to be civilized, to think about the consequences of our actions and please (please!) remain polite. Consume responsibly, talk about it responsibly. Simple enough.

In a recent blog post, the Harvard Business Review explain how companies have a huge stake in making social media platforms more sociable and more civil. They explain : “There’s no question that consumers have more power than ever before to call attention to bad products, services, and experiences. But it’s equally true that companies also have greater power to call attention to bad customer behaviors”. They also go on giving examples about companies that are now rating their customers according to their consumption behavior, and how this is used as a segmentation tool, to make badly-behaved customers pay more or go away. I think this makes sense.

And you, what do you think about customer misbehavior in general, and on social media?

4 thoughts on “Social media misbehavior”

  1. Like the way you have peeled off the issue layer by layer. Social media is full of foul language and there are many dimensions to the abuse. The ones at risk are the kids. Parents earlier would keep the kids out of abusive conversations which were strictly labelled as ‘Adult’. In social media, there are no such barriers. I would just like to add this because it calls for a debate on censorship. Lousy customers can be discouraged by making them pay more sounds like an interesting idea for sure but that needs will and decision power. If you are empowering the sales person against the customer then there could be other repercussions as well. Any possible scenario comes to mind?

    1. Totally agree on the protection of kids, Koustave. Ah there is a whole debate on the empowerment of companies vs customers. Abusive use of customer information is a frequent problem, and targeting vulnerable customers (kids, old people, information deprived) is a common practice. Hard to draw the line, though…

      1. Yes and here’s Indiana Jones coming in :). User data coming from Social Media is something like the Arc of the covenant for marketers and just like people who want to find the arc for wrong reasons, customer data if once made public by social networks goes into the hands of all sorts of people and can be used in every possible way.

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