The Hot, Heavy and Here-to-Stay Social Media Call-Out Culture

July 2nd, 2018

With great power comes great responsibility.” – Uncle Ben, Spiderman

Thanks to the internet, a seemingly never-ending social unrest, and our ability to make a global impact with just a few keystrokes, consumer power is at its height.

2018 is already seeing higher engagement rates between consumers and brands, with one in three consumers mentioning a brand on social media regarding an accomplishment and 41 percent of millennials mentioning a brand to say ‘thanks’ in regard to a life milestone. Businesses, in turn, are relying on social to track their brand health through providing better customer care, sharing more engaging content and identifying the newest and shiniest marketing trends.

There’s a new sheriff in town, it’s the media, and their journalists are the lawmen, while social users are the judge and jury.” – Daniel Imbellino, Co-Founder of Strategic Social Networking.

In late 2017, Sprout Social surveyed 1000 consumers to gain insights on “the call-out culture” and social media. Here are a few takeaways:

  • 80% said that social helps uncover instances of businesses treating people unfairly and 65% noted the power of social media to amplify these issues.
  • 55% of consumers will call-out a brand on social because they want a resolution or response.
  • Brands are now receiving 146% more social messages that require a response than they did three years ago.

Those are quite the stats, empowering social users like never before. We’ve seen the younger generations becoming more vocal and outspoken about what they see as injustice. Millennials are often quicker to the keyboard and tend to be more sensitive to corporate responsibility, with 43 percent more likely to call-out a brand on social media than any other generation. While the survey did not address Generation Z, I’ve no doubt that they will carry millennials’ torch for call-outs online.

Why do consumers call out brands on social? According to the survey:

  • Dishonesty: 60%
  • Bad Customer Service: 59%
  • Rudeness (In-Person): 57%
  • Bad Product Experience: 45%
  • Overcharging: 35%
  • Unresponsiveness: 32%
  • Rudeness (Online): 31%
  • Too Political: 14%

What do they hope to gain from these call-outs?

  • Raise Awareness Among Consumers: 70%
  • An Apology/Solution: 55%
  • Raise Awareness Among Media: 51%
  • A Refund: 38%
  • A Discount: 19%
  • Nothing: 3%

So what should a brand do when they’re called out on social? Take it from Uber, United Airlines, Starbucks and many other case-study-worthy brands: take back control with a thoughtful response.

If you were wrong, accept responsibility and apologize. If a brand ignores a complaint on social, per the Sprout Social survey, 40 percent of consumers will contact the brand on another channel, 35 percent will boycott the brand and 34 percent will share the negative experience with a friend offline. A helpful response can quickly turn a complaint into a positive advocate.

When it comes to the call-out culture, an ounce of proactive social customer service is worth a pound of public relations cure.” – Sprout Social

One brand that keeps winning on social media is JetBlue Airlines. During Hurricane Irma, JetBlue capped their rates at $99 so evacuees could get out and to safety without breaking the bank, while JetBlue’s competitors spiked fares, taking advantage of the emergency. In a separate instance, JetBlue had to unexpectedly cancel 1,000 flights resulting in thousands of unhappy customers. In response to this event, JetBlue immediately issued an apology letter that was shared on social and offered generous compensation to those affected. There are many instances of brands failing at social media manners; however, we often forget those who win when we should be taking cues from them.

One of the keys to the cure of customer service is empathy. Most recently and notably, the case of former Uber CEO Kalanick clearly lacked empathy from one of his drivers, who then shared a video of Kalanick’s cold comments to his own employees on social media. Is an apology required to show empathy? Most often times, the answer is yes.

The call-out culture is not going away – so it’s better to be prepared and have your crisis plan ready if things go awry.