How to Complain Effectively via Social Media

Social media is flaming great right? It has opened up a two-way conversation between the consumer and the businesses, brands etc that we love, use and give our money to. Of course, that all depends on the brand actually being active in the first place, but that’s another story. Whether said brands like it or not, people do use social media to complain – the response to those complaints varies wildly, but it is a great way to get your point across to a brand that has ‘ripped your knitting’. But what is the best way to go about this? Read on to find out.

1 – Keep cool!

Don’t go out all guns blazing – ‘@brand I f***** hate you, your purple widget self combusted and ruined my favourite v-neck, sort it out or else!’

Having been on the end of this type of complaint via social in my career, it does the complainer no favours, in fact, it’s likely to lead to you being put to the bottom of the queue. Is that right? Well, not really, but you need to remember that there is a human sitting behind that social media platform, and us humans don’t like to be abused. It also makes you look like a bit of a plonker.

Stay calm, get your point across and be prepared to wait a while for an answer – yes social should be fast, but in a realistic world, that isn’t always possible. In the case of Twitter, do use DMs where possible (the private message function on a Facebook page is also handy), but doubling up with an @ message is a smart move. You should also be willing to take the complaint away from social media, perhaps to email in order to get a resolution – it can be hard for a business to help fully via social.


Stay cool! (creative commons via

2 – Don’t Troll!

Nobody likes a troll, and brands are no different. Do not send multiple messages with the same complaint across multiple platforms, again, you’ll just reduce your chance of getting served quickly. By all means, if you do not get a satisfactory response after a reasonable time period, go back and prompt them, but don’t harangue!

These trolls are cute. Web trolls aren't! (creative commons via

These trolls are cute. Web trolls aren’t! (creative commons via

3 – Send an email first

Email? Are you for real? Yes I am! Businesses have been dealing with complaints via email for over a decade, it is natural to most of them – social is not yet at that stage for many, so, send an email, then take to social and say – ‘hello Mr Brand, I’ve got an issue with your product and have sent you an email, can you please take a look for me?’. This approach prompts them and may well lead to a quicker response.

Email isn't dead (creative commons via

Email isn’t dead (creative commons via

4 – Buy an ad?!?

Just this week, Twitter user Hasan Syed, bought a Twitter promoted tweet to complain to BA about lost luggage. This caused quite a stir in the press, and BA did get in touch with Hasan and resolved the issue. Personally, I think this was a bit over the top, especially as it appears he hadn’t bothered to tweet them in advance of using the promoted tweet. BA run their Twitter from 9-5, which actually isn’t really acceptable for a service that is 24/7 and across all time-zones. Dutch airline KLM, runs a 24/7 Twitter feed and does it very well. Hasan’s approach did make BA stand up and take notice, but I’m not convinced it was really needed.

So, there you go folks, some tips on complaining with style via social media. How successful have you been with social media complaints? Do you think Hasan Syed’s approach with BA was worth it?

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About Mike McGrail

Mike McGrail is the owner of The Social Penguin Blog. He is the MD of Velocity Digital. He likes scotch and leather-bound books. Follow Mike's ramblings on Twitter. He also resides on Google Plus here.

  • Brittany at Sprout Social

    Great points, Mike! I’d have to agree that buying an ad is quite extreme, unless of course you’ve exhausted every possible channel and still aren’t getting any resolution.

    And remaining calm and respectful (understandably difficult if you’re really upset) is going to work much more in your favor. The people behind the brand are likely go out of their way to make things better if you’re pleasant, than if you were to attack them off-the-bat.

    • Steven Sefton

      People need to step back and think what actions they’re about to take. Put themselves in the persons shoe’s that they’re about to complain to and ask themselves, “Is this the best action to take to get a result that I want?”