Before social media, complaining was harder. If you wanted to point out a company's bad practice, you had to use a private channel to contact the customer service department. You may have been able to publicly make a statement if the nature of your grievance was widely relatable, and you had the energy and stature to get your grievance published in a newspaper. But mostly, your complaint was a private matter.
Social media changed this. When Facebook and Twitter reached mass adoption, companies suddenly needed to be in the space where so many existing and potential customers were. They started printing the F-logo and blue bird onto their packaging, jumping on these new marketing channels and buying ads en masse. But these were platforms! They worked in many directions: customers could also reach companies more easily. And what they said could be seen by everyone.
As a customer today I do my research online. Next to internet searching, I may look up a company's Facebook or Twitter account, and see what other people are asking and telling on those page. What kinds of issues people report, and the responsiveness of companies to these people affects their brand in my eyes. Lousy demonstrated service will detract me. Companies can get away with less - bad experiences spread faster.
The flip side is that good experiences can spread quickly too, and some lucky companies can get a lot of free marketing this way with (viral) user-generated content. In any case, I think faster feedback loops for companies are a win for society.
Today I'm publishing my personal contribution to the feedback-o-sphere of the internet: The Page of Judgement, a living collection of tweets about both good and bad experiences I've had with products and companies over the years.
Often they are trifling issues, bug reports and feature requests. Sometimes they're vague annoyances or happy surprises. Quite regularly, they got a response from a company spokesperson - and sometimes a small discussion even ensued.
This organized tweet collection is yet another perspective on my personal data. We generate so many messages, tweets and posts daily. Incumbent social media companies know what to do with this: use it to understand people, and monetize that understanding by selling personalized ads. But whether past personal data can have value in the present and future, for oneself, is a matter of constant experimentation that I like to tinker with.
I will reference this list to remember what I publicly "liked" and "disliked". Maybe someone on the internet finds it fascinating as well.
One insight strikes me so far: I'm praising more online than complaining. Let that be a guiding rule for the future!