Businesses have long had to revamp their marketing plans to include social media for a number of reasons, including visibility and customer service. Due to a hugely incredible ease of sharing and rapid visibility on social media, many customers routinely turn to their preferred networks to get themselves heard. As a result, customer complaints are a common trend found on most of the major social networking websites.
While social media has created some incredible marketing opportunities, this does not mean social media potentials do not come without the drawbacks which include public customer complaints. Complaints and/or disgruntled comments have the potential to spread like wildfire and negatively impact a brand. Businesses today really can't afford to ignore these types of complaints.
Why do customers turn to social media to complain?
Ease and Simplicity
Voicing a complaint online is quick and easy. Why bother typing up emails that might end up in spam or the trash bin? Not to mention it could take too long to get a response even if the complaint is seen. Telephone might be quicker, but why navigate or through a host of digital menus and prompts when trying to voice a complaint when all one has to do is log onto their favorite social network and say what wants to be said? Social media provides an instant outlet to express a frustration related to a brand.
Mobile has made it incredibly easy for consumers to turn to the web in order to make a comment or complaint about a brand.
Fast Response and Immediate Feedback
Consumers are smart to post on social networks because these savvy consumers are well aware many brands actively monitor themselves on the web. By placing a complaint on a blog, Facebook page or letting loose on Twitter, they know this is likely to elicit a reaction.
Many companies are actively watching their brand online to protect their integrity (and the ones that don't, should be), and an increasingly large number of consumers are realizing this is a great way to put the pressure on to get a rapid response and, hopefully, a resolution.
Ensure Accurate Complaints are Filed
Calling a customer representative line is helpful, but it is also typically time consuming. There is also the risk the person taking the call does not enter the problem accurately or misses information when taking notes. Users who put an electronic footprint themselves on their complaint(s) can actively control what information is shared and getting passed to those who can help resolve the problem.
As with most reasons why people use social networks, sharing information to help out fellow consumers is a strong reason why many turn to the social web to make complaints against a company. If a company is acting unethical, not honoring contracts, has defective products or is offering poor service, many view airing these grievances on the social web to be one of social responsibility to inform other consumers. Consider how sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor are so popular with people routinely turning to them to see what others think.
Way to Blow Off Steam
The web is a highly-populated place and consumers who turn to social media to voice their criticism and/or grievance is an instant way to capture attention to an issue. Consumers know they will get far more visibility by putting their complaints out on the web as opposed to a private email, phone call or by sending in a traditional complaint letter (do people still do the latter?) It is not uncommon for people to visit a brand's Facebook page or send out a Tweet to the company they have an issue with where they know other consumers will be reading.
People who have a bad experience with a company are often angry and the social web is a place to blow off that steam and complain about what is bothering them. Today's society thrives on instant gratification and what quicker way to feel better about anger at a company is to voice it where a broad audience is likely to view the complaint?
"Social media websites like Twitter and Facebook attracting legions of users, and companies have taken notice," states Jon Yates in a 2010 Chicago Tribune piece. "Many now maintain their own social media pages in an effort to both market their products and provide a new brand of Internet-based customer service." 
Yates said this back in 2010, but the same stands true in 2016, perhaps even more so. It is an important factor because it demonstrates the vital need for businesses to pay careful attention to what's being said online, especially on social networks since its use has increased significantly in recent years.
As Social Media Today points out, "the only only real question for businesses is how - not if - they will respond." In the same article, a 2012 study by Gartner was cited, noting customer expectation for businesses to reply via social media is high - not responding is equated to ignoring a phone call or email. 
Social media has grown to become a huge public forum. One of the growing fears in recent years that many marketers, customer service managers and public relations persons face is the idea of having to combat a social media disaster. It's a challenge, but a trend that is here to stay. Companies that aren't already actively monitoring their brand online are lagging behind.
Customers have long gotten savvy to the benefits of airing their grievances on the web and, instead of getting the run-around through more traditional ways to get resolution or elicit a company response, they are using various social networks not only to air their feelings out, but to get faster and tangible results as well.
Not to mention it's incredibly convenient.
Is your business carefully monitoring your brand on social media?