"Social" Becoming A Call-Out Culture

According to the Q3 2017 Sprout Social Index, Social has sparked a culture of calling out businesses, whether in the form of a friend’s angry rant about their contractor, or the latest video of a scorned customer on the evening news. Consumers are taking it upon themselves to highlight and amplify brands’ bad behavior for the world to see.

Situations involving bad customer service and rude employees no longer take place in isolation, says the report. The prevalence of Social media now ensures that every unhelpful, insensitive or downright inappropriate interaction has the potential to go viral for the world to see.

Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to find out how prevalent this culture is for the everyday consumer, what impact does it have on others’ purchasing decisions, and what can a brand do to turn it around:

  • 46% of consumers have used Social media to "call out" brands
  • 4 in 5 consumers think Social media has increased accountability for businesses
  • 55%of consumers call out brands on Social media to get a resolution or response

For years, says the report, we’ve discussed how Social media democratizes influence, whether it’s a teenager using his Twitter following for free chicken nuggets, or a brand-boycotting coalition, Social media proves time and time again that you don’t need an ad buy or a household name to have a voice and impact change.

Angry complaints that were previously seen by a few people behind closed doors are now broadcast to millions. Any customer, regardless of money or status, has the opportunity to take a brand to task with 140 characters. It’s clear that people recognize that power, says the report. In fact, 81% say that Social media has increased accountability for businesses.

When we asked how Social has driven that accountability, people highlighted the power dynamic between individuals and brands, with 80% saying that Social media helps uncover instances of businesses treating people unfairly, and 65% noting the power of Social to amplify issues, not only through posting your own complaints but through sharing others’ posts.

Ways in Which Consumers Believe Social Has Increased Accountability For Brands


% of Respondents

Uncovers unfair treatment


Gives consumers power


Encourages transparency


Amplifies issues


Helps employees share experiences


Source: SproutSocial, August 2017

While in the past, consumers may have felt powerless to stand up to businesses alone, Social has given people a platform to share their stories and enlist the help of the public to demand resolution, or even restitution. Even a single, seemingly isolated issue has the power to spur thousands of retweets, memes, comments and hash tagged posts.

The power jumps even higher when the data is presented by generation. Unsurprisingly, Millennials are quick to take their frustration to the keyboard, says the report. 56% of them have complained or called out brands on Social. That means that Millennials are 43% more likely to call out a brand on Social media than other generations.

Consumers Who Have Called Out Brands on Social







Other generations



Source: SproutSocial, August 2017

As so many consumers take to Social to call out brands, the medium is second only to in-person as the place to address customer service issues and inappropriate behavior. While 55% of people are likely to say something in-person, Social media is close behind with 47%. Email is trailing with 42% and only 35% of people are likely to turn to the phone to air their frustrations.

Social is the most likely channel for Millennials to voice their concern, with 59% of Millennials saying they’d use Social to address an issue. In-person confrontations came in second, with 51% of Millennials identifying in-person interactions as their most likely choice.

Looking into what actually prompts people to take to Social to air their frustrations, Dishonesty, says the report, leads the pack with 60% of consumers saying it causes them to call out brands on Social. Following close behind are bad customer service and plain rudeness.

Why Consumers Call Out Brands on Social


% of Respondents



Bad customer service


Rudeness (in person)


Bad product experience




Rudeness (online)


Source: SproutSocial, August 2017

Once they do call out a brand on Social, what are customers actually hoping to get from their complaint, asks the report. First and foremost, posting on Social is about amplifying their anger. 

  • 70% of people just want other customers to be aware
  • 51% want to raise awareness among media outlets
  • 54% are using the platform to actually get a response from a business
  • 38% are looking for monetary action from the brand

The report concludes by examing the prevalence of these public displays of frustration: do people treat them like just another update in their feed or do they hold the brand accountable? Concluding, the report summarizes the “so what” responses:

  • In the era of fake news, 65% of people said that when they see someone else call out a brand on Social, they’ll think twice about buying from them again, but they want to do their own research first
  • Another 32% said that they’ll amplify that message even further by liking or sharing the initial complaint on their own profile
  • 26% will join the conversation and share their own experiences or options
  • 17% of people simply take that call-out at face value and won’t buy from you again
  • 12% of people are fed up with call-out culture in their feeds, and are just plain annoyed with the initial customer complaint

To view the complete, original study, please visit here.


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