The Coming Social Media Backlash… For Jerks

feedbackOne of the great things about Social Media, I believe, is that it forces companies to be more transparent. It pressures them to create better products and provide better customer service since their missteps will be broadcast in the social media community. But, how will we feel when companies start treating their customers in the same way? If social media will help keep companies on their best behavior could it or even should it have the same effect on their customers?
Living in a World with FeedbackeBay
A world where every customer is rated on how good a customer they are might sound pretty far fetched but that world has been with us for years on eBay. eBay created a system where buyers and sellers rate each other at the end of a transaction. The ability of both the buyer and the seller to transact business in the future is influenced by how quickly they pay, how fast they ship, the quality of the product and the ease of the transaction. What they created was an electronic equivalent of the way markets have worked in the real worked for countless years. The butcher with the unfair scale gets a bad reputation and the rowdy customer gets shown the door. What will happen when companies realize that they can use social media in the same fashion?
What if Negative Behavior had Consequences?
A known issue with TripAdvisor and other hotel review sites is that some customers game the system. They demand additional service and threaten to leave a negative review. They are of the opinion that their negative and unfair behavior will have no negative consequences.  Markets don’t work that way. Markets have a way of evening things out. So what would happen if hotels started using that data? A hotel might not currently be able to deny you a room if your TripAdvisor reviews are always negative, but it might be in their best interest if they could. A positive review has value to a brand and a negative review hurts a brand. So could a hotel offer discounts to people who tend to give good reviews? I can see a day where if you offer to log into the hotel site using TripAdvisor, in much the same fashion that Facebook connect works today, they could reward happier guests. They would then be more likely to get positive reviews and perhaps they would have better morale with their staff if they had more appreciative guests.
What if We Rated Buyers?

What happens when rating buyers extends from eBay to airlines? What if your flight crew could rate you after a flight. You give up your seat to help a family sit together and your flight attendant gives you a great rating. You bitch about the service or are a very demanding customer and the flight attendant gives you a bad rating. If you could exclude the bad customers on future flights wouldn’t your flight crew and other customers be happier? So when customers go to book their next flight why doesn’t the company offer different discounts to good passengers or surcharges to jerks? Some people will protest no doubt, but this is not being prejudiced, it is not violating people’s civil rights. This is treating people as Dr King asked based on the “content of their character”.
Can we envision a day where your reputation becomes public knowledge? This will probably not happen any time soon because no company wants the law suits that would result, but I think this is the way that things are heading. Someday customers and not just companies will have their behavior exposed publicly. That day will be judgment day for jerks and, I think, a good day for the marketplace.

Author: chris2x

One man's view of life in Silicon Valley from Chris Christensen - a podcaster, blogger, programmer, entrepreneur


  1. Chris, if you haven’t you should read Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”* where one’s wealth/position in the ‘Bitchun Society’ is determined by dynamically updated Whuffie points—the measure of esteem/respect that you are accorded by others.
    While Cory doesn’t go into the details of how this would work or deal with issues like gaming the system it makes for an excellent read.
    You can download it for free at Cory’s site:
    * 2004 Best Novel Nebula winner.

  2. Actually eBay did away with that practice. Buyers still leave feedback but sellers can only leave positive feedback for buyers. Apparently the consumer didn’t approve of being rated.

  3. I actually love this concept…..and it’s perfectly fair. It boils down to simple accountability. Whether you’re a company or individual, take responsibility for your actions and behavior, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

  4. The problem with ebays system was that Bad sellers could hold (presumably good) buyers hostage, by giving them bad feedback if the buyer made a legitimate complaint against the seller. This happened to me once, and I stopped buying on ebay for several years until the recent change. Giving businesses the power to affect my reputation gives them the incredible power to extort me, or to change terms once a deal is established. As you pointed out, the same can be said for the reverse of roles (I can extort them), but in general, a single business will have transactions with MANY times more customers, than my interactions with businesses. I may deal with 10 or even 20 businesses in a day. The average retail, hotel, or service business likely deals with hundreds, if not thousands of customers a day, which help to average out the crooked ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *