20% of Social Network Users Have Shared Negative Brand Experiences


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?

4 comments about "20% of Social Network Users Have Shared Negative Brand Experiences".
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  1. Ellen Fruchtman from fruchtman marketing, April 29, 2010 at 4:41 p.m.

    If over half of the social network users don't use their real names online, how transparent is the social media world really? It's easy to "talk"; it's easy to give a negative review; the not easy part is actually owning up to the critique or opinion you might have- positive or negative.

  2. Joseph Coughlin from MIT AgeLab, April 29, 2010 at 5:03 p.m.

    Research does suggest that negative experience and related emotions have more intensity to motivate people to 'complain.' Social networking now offers a larger platform to exercise those emotions. Sadly, for those firms and professionals looking for positive reinforcement online, it is unlikely they will ever find a 'majority' of good words left in cyberspace.
    Joe Coughlin, MIT AgeLab

  3. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, April 30, 2010 at 3:41 a.m.

    Ellen: Where did you get the statistic that half of social media users use fake identities? It would be pretty smart if they did but I thought at least Facebook was pretty real. On Facebook you are controlling your own image but on other sites you may be trying to be more honest about things and the inability to delete what people write who are arguing with you compels you to be anonymous.

    On Yelp or elsewhere, of course one need not identify oneself because being the Masked Restaurant Critic allows you to be more honest. It also helps one identify where spam is coming from later (wasn't Phil my first name at Yelp?)

    I don't see a reason why a critic's real identity matters unless you suspect foul play from a competitor (some dishonest consultants offer the service of giving negative reviews to competing products). It is often not a great idea for people to use their real names while being negative or arguing online.

    Nobody needs to "own up to" anything they say online unless they want to press charges for something, in which case they own up at the police station.

    It is what is said that matters. It either has substance on its own or it doesn't. If someone says you cheated them, you can be seen asking who the heck they are and when did it happen.

    The Supreme Court has already said people have the right to anonymous free speech online (if you are a US male trying to meet a Russian woman online, the new IMBRA law forces you to be sex offender checked and reveal the names of any children and every state you ever lived in before you can say hello - but the Supreme Court will eventually overturn that as well).

  4. Gregory Yankelovich from Amplified Analytics Inc, April 30, 2010 at 5:26 p.m.

    Our statistics (1,786,629 customer reviews at the time of this writing) and it's analysis does not support the hypothesis that majority of social network users are writing to complain. Check for yourself at our website Interestingly enough there is a lot of complains from Market Research, Customer Insights and CRM specialists about social media inflationary impact on products and services reputations. According to our analysis the both are nothing but a myth and a speculation. The opinions expressed, if statistically representative and analyzed for authenticity, conform to normal distribution patterns that solely dependent on quality of these products and services as they have been experienced by customers.

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