Nail social-shaming: how to complain on social media

Iona Bain

Yesterday, we explored the phenomenon of social shaming as a means of getting results for consumers. Today, we’re looking more closely at how YOU can benefit from the Social Shaming approach – when to use it, when not to use it and other guidelines that will help you when going down this path. So welcome to the Young Money Social Shaming ten point guide© 7.0*, designed to help you kick corporate butt on social media. Here we go…

  1. Stop and think. It may not always be appropriate to lay out your woes on social media in the first instance, especially if your query isn’t urgent. Make a phone call or write a quick email to the company before you go online. This safeguard may also force you to be more measured in your language or even jettison your complaint altogether if it’s unreasonable, as opposed to tweeting in the white heat (tweet!?) of anger. Wait for 24 hours.
  2. Be clear, brief and polite. Don’t embark on an epic rant unless you are embroiled in a genuinely eye-popping saga and you have a way with words – in which case, knock yourself out, you might have a viral hit on your hands. Otherwise, explain exactly what the problem is as concisely as you can. And never use swear words or abusive language, no matter how angry you feel. A simple and classically British “Not Good!” at the end of my tweets has always sufficed.
  3. Send your gripe to a friend/housemate/trusted confidante before hitting the post button. Ask them: is this is a reasonable complaint to make? They might make you realise that tweeting “waiting five minutes on the phone is a terrible waste of my precious time!” isn’t entirely justified. Be self-aware and know how your complaint comes across to friends and colleagues. Having said that, don’t be ashamed to social shame. If you’ve been treated badly and your complaint is on point, your social networks should respect you for standing up for your rights.
  4. Understand what you want to get out of the complaint. Is it a fix? A refund? A discount? An apology? None of these are unreasonable demands per se, but know what the limitations are before you start. For instance, a receipt or contract may have restrictions that are entirely legal, so study these before jumping in. And if you told the trader or business that their service was good enough when it was done, you don’t have the legal right to get it done again or get a discount (unless it wasn’t obvious at the time that the service was deficient).
  5. Co-operate. Companies should apologise in quick order and offer to resolve the complaint over direct messaging or email. Make sure you quickly send over photos of receipts, contracts, goods or anything else that’s relevant to your complaint. And stick to the “clear, brief, polite” guidelines. Just because your complaint isn’t public anymore doesn’t mean you can turn nasty.
  6. Haggle, haggle, haggle! It’s always worth asking for compensation or a discount. When I took on TalkTalk, I nailed the first step of this oh-so-modern complaints procedure by throwing my virtual toys out of the pram (in a nice way). When I got the follow-up call from TalkTalk, I took a decidedly more traditional approach. I said: “This has caused me a lot of inconvenience and I’m wondering if compensation would be fair.” I was told that compensation couldn’t be offered but that TalkTalk would save £15 off my next broadband bill. Result. Haggling may feel awkward as hell, but push through. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. And if you don’t feel the complaint has been resolved properly, keep going back and following up on social media. Fortune favours the persistent.
  7. Get the media involved if you’re getting nowhere. I’m always amazed at how quickly companies buck up their ideas and sort things out for consumers the moment I step in. You don’t have to go to a national newspaper (although it can’t harm). Freelance journalists and bloggers like me get results too!
  8. Give credit where credit’s due. If you have received a fantastic service, always give the company a positive shout-out. Let your fellow Tweeps/Facebookers/Instagrammers know if you have had good value for money. You’re doing them a massive favour!
  9. Never name and shame individuals. Your complaint should be proportionate. And remember the social shaming ratio – the smaller the company, the more conciliatory you should be. Small business owners work their butts off and are (usually) trying their best. You can cause serious reputational damage with social shaming, so be responsible and fair. The bigger the company, the more robust and unforgiving you can be.
  10. Finally, don’t troll! Resist the temptation to fire off critiques for the sake of it based on your subjective opinion. Okay, so you didn’t love that play/film/TV show/blog/gig. Do you REALLY have to tell the people involved and everyone you know? Social media is piled with enough bile as it is. Don’t add to the negativity bin if it isn’t really necessary!

*Er, we haven’t really copyrighted this. So please don’t nick it! Ta.

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