October 29, 2011, 8:55 AM — The Internet has long been a virtual playground for exercising anger, especially when it comes to consumers' relationships with businesses. Now, a psychology professor at University of the Rockies has examined the motivations of these chronic Web complainers and found a loophole in social media for companies looking to minimize damage and explore business opportunities.
Dr. David Solly at University of the Rockies, a graduate school specializing in social and behavioral sciences, says complaining -- be it on the Web or alone in front of a mirror -- releases stress and makes the grumbler feel physically better. And the Internet, with its endless assortment of social forums, gives consumers "the capability of voicing their opinions with grandeur on a global scale."
Solly says using a nonconfrontational, impersonal medium such as Twitter or Facebook broadcasts the complaint to a far-reaching audience, as opposed to face-to-face gripes that touch only those nearby. Voicing complaints on the Web also lends an air of protection and anonymity, and gives "a feeling of commanding great power and control" over the situation. "They have the perception that they are broadcasting their message to the public ... and they are."
Think about Yelp in that context of grandeur and wide audiences: aren't Yelp reviews more often than not wordy soapboxes for people to try, in overly erudite ways, to spread their frustrations and perhaps influence a company's operations? (And isn't that precisely why we make fun of the Yelp Elite?)
According to a 2011 Pew Internet survey, 65% of adults on the Internet are now using social media, and some even rank Facebook's role in their lives as more vital than a flushing toilet. So it's no surprise that analytics firm Webs found that 69% of business owners are using social media at their companies, and that of those who don't, 41% say they will in the next three months.