One of the great things about the Web, from the consumer's point of view, is that it's highly conducive to complaint: where a company could just shrug off your customer service issues in the old days, with the Web in the mix they pretty much have to pay attention lest it blow up into a horrible fiasco. Of course, while they put the best face they can on it ("no, we're thrilled to have a new channel to resolve customer service issues!") big brands are probably less enthusiastic about this part of the Web.
They're right to be engaged, however: a survey of 1,040 American adults conducted earlier this month by Opinion Research for the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. found that 20% of respondents had used social media to share a negative experience with a brand or service. At the same time, 64% reported that their employers didn't have a social media policy or strategy dictating how employees talk about their company online, and another fifth said they were prohibited from talking about their company altogether... which seems like a glaring oversight, considering the high incidence of brand-oriented negative comments.
The Opinion Research/Chubb survey also had some interesting findings in terms of privacy. While I engage in some hand-wringing over the amount of information people share on the Web, we're not quite as naïve as all that: it turns out almost half of social network users don't always use their real names online. 18% of all social network users said they use a nickname exclusively, never a real name -- that's almost one out of five people using some kind of alias, which seems like a lot. Meanwhile, roughly a third said they use some combination of their real name and a nickname.
Perhaps most noteworthy: 66% of the respondents said they won't use any mobile social network technology that alerts other people to their location -- e.g., Foursquare -- out of concern for their personal privacy and security.
On this last point, I'd be interested to find out how willingness to adopt location-based social media varies by age: is it something younger adults are more comfortable with, while older adults are wary? Or perhaps the reverse?