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Three-in-ten British Columbians (31%) have complained about a brand through social media—and few are satisfied with the response they received.

Vancouver, BC – A sizeable proportion of British Columbians have used online social media platforms to criticize and complain about various products and services, but only one-in-four of those who have complained are actually satisfied with the way their last grievance was handled, a new survey from Insights West has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of British Columbians, more than four-in-five residents (83%) claim to use social media at least once a month. The most often used platform in BC is Facebook, which is accessed daily by just over half (52%) of all BC residents, and monthly by three-in-four (75%). This is followed by Twitter (12% daily; 25% monthly), and LinkedIn (4% daily; 26% monthly). Other platforms, such as Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Pinterest, have fewer users in the province.

More than a third of BC’s social media users (37%, or 31% of all residents) say they have posted complaints on social media about a service or company.

Facebook is the predominant method of complaining about brands online, with 81% of social media complainers are doing so via Facebook, and a further 32% are doing so through Twitter. These complaints can resonate far and wide, as the average Facebook user in BC has 217 friends who are listening to their complaints, and the average number of Twitter followers is 139.

BC’s consumers are complaining multiple times about multiple brands. About 30% of those who are using Facebook or Twitter to criticize brands, have done so five times or more.

“Unlike the days of quietly complaining to a small circle of friends and family around you, dissatisfied consumers are now shouting with a loudspeaker to a wide network of friends and followers online,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “Companies need to be aware of the exponential effect of social media complaining, and be on top of the impact this could have on their brand.”

British Columbians who complain on social media have restaurants (38%), transit (29%) and telecommunications (27%) as the primary focus of their grievances. However, no industry is immune to online condemnation, including airlines, hotels and utilities (all at 16%) and financial institutions (15%).


When asked if the companies acknowledged their complaint, seven-in-ten social media users in British Columbia say no action was taken. About one-in-four (23%) say the companies issued an online apology, while just one-in-eight (12%) were offered a discount or coupon for a service.

Across the province, only 26% of social media users say they are “satisfied” with the way their last complaint on social media was handled. In fact, the level of strong dissatisfaction with the actions of the company (28%) is three times higher than the level of strong satisfaction (9%).


“Companies can benefit immensely by addressing these complaints publicly, and directly to the customer who is complaining,” continues Mossop. “Currently, this opportunity is being missed completely by the large majority of social media ‘complainees.’ Often the response – or lack of response – can be just as meaningful or damaging as the complaint itself. Brands need to be doing a better job in managing social media complaints.”


About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary and has ten full-time and five part-time employees.


About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from September 26 to October 2, 2013, among 588 British Columbian social media users who are aged 18+ and are Your Insights panel members. is Insights West’s in-house access panel offering on-demand samples for both clients and research suppliers looking for Western Canadian populations. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age and gender. While statistical margins of error are arguably not applicable to online panels/online studies of this nature, we have assumed that the same margins of error apply as if it were a true unweighted random probability sample with a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty. To view the detailed data tabulations, click here.


For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President, Insights West

Photograph: Jason A. Howie