The days of 1-800 customer service calls have passed and complaints are the “walk of shame” of social media. Everyone sees them, and they can be really embarrassing.

Thanks to the advent of social media it is easier than ever for consumers to reach out directly to a brand via the brand’s social channels to voice a complaint or concern.

The social media “trolls,” as I like to affectionately call them.

We all know who they are

If you don’t, just check out the latest post from and you’ll quickly realize. “Trolls” are your haters. Those who take to your social media platforms to complain, to tell stories, to act publicly in any way that may hinder the credibility of your brand.

Maybe they had a bad experience at your restaurant, maybe they have an issue with your GMO product, your employee benefits or maybe, they just don’t like your content. Whatever it is, they want you and every one on your social media channels to know about it.

According to Jay Baer of “Hug Your Haters. How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers,” when people complain publicly, they don’t really want an answer; they want an audience. They want people to empathize and engage with them. If they actually hear back, it’s a bonus. Additionally, Baer says, research proves that actually answering the person who had a bad experience and left a review online, has a significant impact on your customer advocacy.

So, haters gunna hate and brands gunna, or should, answer.

There are three key benefits to answering every complaint, in every channel:

  • Answering complaints increases customer advocacy
  • It provides an opportunity to turn a customer around, improve a situation, retain
  • Finally, acknowledging a complaint provides an opportunity to learn about your business, the perception of your business and your customers in a new way

Engaging with your haters is not as simple as monitoring your page. There are often what I like to call, “haters in hiding.” These haters may take to the TripAdvisor, GlassDoor and Yelps of the world, to complain about your business. Find and engage them there, too.

How? With empathy. One-to-one. Human-to-human. On the platform in which they engaged with your business. Quickly. A pre-approved and canned response is not empathy and asking a Twitter user to call, or for their information so that your business may call, is not an ideal or easy customer experience.

Yes. You should do this even with the troll-iest of trolls.

And if my plea isn’t convincing enough, I offer you this final statistic from Baer: We spend $500 billion dollars on marketing annually and $9 billion dollars on customer service.

It takes substantially more resources to generate new customers than to value and keep the customers we have.

Pre-order Baer’s book on or check out the mind behind Discover’s customer-service strategy, Dan Gingiss.