Social Media Accountability – Have We Gone Too Far?


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Last year I wrote a blog post outlining my concerns about the behaviour of some consumers and how they tend to use social media to unleash hell on a company, only to walk away from attempts to resolve a situation.

I wrote that post because I was seeing a lot of ‘thought leaders’ talking about how companies need to start taking responsibility for their products and actions and embracing the consumer’s desire and power to deliver feedback. So whilst on the one hand the expectations of how a company would embrace or engage went through the roof, I wasn’t seeing any corresponding change in expectations of consumer behaviour or responsibility.

This whole lack of mutual responsibility really worried me then, and it still worries me today.

Two things happened in the past week to make me revisit this issue.

Firstly, I caught a Tweet whereby a user raised the spectre of patent theft against a company that we have some business dealings with. Attempts to communicate with this person so as to clarify the reason for this tweet failed. Wow, accusations of patent violation are no small matter – so was this a legitimate issue or a case of social industrial espionage?

Secondly, I happened to catch a question on LinkedIn in the Vistage/TEC group – CEO Leaders where a member was asking about how to deal with situations where consumers seem to have all the power and no mutual obligation to work to resolve an issue.

The Rant and Run Issue

This got me thinking about this whole rant and run issue – particularly as more and more businesses are starting to get the message and make genuine attempts to be social.

So how would we (the social sphere leaders) deal with this issue?

Have we in fact unbalanced the universe? Have we tipped the balance of power and responsibility too far to the consumer?

Does a genuine mistake deserve to be globally punished with the #fail tag?

Should consumers be allowed to engage in social anarchy, social vandalism, or even worse, social espionage?

Do we need to start thinking about the responsibilities of consumers?

Or should we start to set expectations of how a consumer should respond AND their obligation to stay engaged and discuss the resolution?

Should we seek to define a charter of mutual responsibilities?

Am I over thinking this issue?

Mark Parker
Mark Parker is the founder of Smart Selling, and the specialist business unit – Smart Social Media. The core aim of both businesses is to help companies become better sales organisations by utilising the ideas, tools, and practices of Sales 2. and social media.


  1. Andrew
    I appreciate the insight – and I tend to agree that a charter might not work – we are talking about humans afterall.

    Your last point about having a mitigation strategy in place is really important. I took your points and went back into our strategy framework and added some content around the need to have a risk management element – such that as we learn about where our customers congregate we use this to guide what we would then do in the event of a user going feral – by this I mean we’d know where and how to place content or information so that it could be found and used to counter the negative material.

    Thanks again for the insight

    Mark Parker
    Smart Social Media

  2. Hi Mark: You have raised some great questions. As we all know, since time immemorial, customers have held opinions about vendors. Some opinions are fair, others unfair. While it’s wrong for customers to voice negative sentiment maliciously, it’s also incredibly hard to define just what makes the expression of anti-vendor vitriol malicious.

    For that reason, I think it’s fruitless to attempt to establish a reciprocal “Customer Code of Ethics,” –necessary as it might be. Granted as a vendor, we might not agree with shrill, unearned negativity, but we must understand and accept the risk that it will happen.

    Social media has created major challenges in this regard. Pre-blogging and pre-other social media, an unhappy customer would need to expend substantial resources to make his or her experiences known. Today, that’s not the case, and the viral nature of consumer-generated opinions exposes considerable risk and vulnerability for corporations. It is the job of senior management to have mitigation strategies in place if those risks are both high likelihood and high impact to the company.

    A related article I wrote on the topic, The Hidden Risks of Social Networks.


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