Social Fury: A Superpower for the Dissatisfied Consumer

 Luanne Amato – Instructor of Management-Marketing

by Luanne Amato, MBA, EdD

Recently, as the superheroes of old are enjoying revitalization through modern movies, so too are today’s consumers enjoying revitalization in their purchasing power. The shopping public has joined ranks with their fabled superheroes, transforming from mere mortals into beings with the ability (aka superpower) to eradicate injustice in the world of retail. This superpower, fueled by the Internet, is known as social fury.

In the pre-Internet sales arena, consumers used word of mouth as happy consumers shared their satisfaction with a few friends, neighbors, or relatives while unhappy consumers related their experience with as many people as they could physically find. However, in the 21st century, marketplace social media has amplified the reach of this complaint practice from a few interested buyers to millions of potential customers, instantaneously.

This communications explosion has caused a significant shift in the balance of power between consumers and the brands they favor. Unhappy consumers now wield significant influence since retailers are aware that consumer satisfaction is the driving force behind a positive revenue stream and increasing profits.

Consumers who exercise their social-fury superpower can have a damaging effect on potential sales. Consumers interact with brands over a minimum of at least seven social media channels (Walgrove, 2018). Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, with their plethora of followers, are considered ground zero where complaints are aired and shared through cyberspace to billions of interested buyers. This exposure carries the threat of a negative post going viral, potentially costing millions in sales revenue (Diamond, 2015; Goldstein, 2015, Smith, 2019).

The 21st-century consumer is a savvy user of social fury.

  • 47% of consumers use social media to express dissatisfaction with 59% of the complaints targeting customer service (Embree, n.d.);
  • 70% of consumers use social media to elevate awareness of poor retail practices and 50% will boycott the brand if the retailer does not provide an adequate response (Embree, n.d.);
  • 32% of consumers will discontinue their relationship with a favored retailer after only one bad customer service experience (Hyken, 2018).

Armed with their very effective superpower, consumers expect their voices to be heard and their wants and needs met. Since 2014 there has been a 146% increase in social media messaging about brand satisfaction and 78% of complaining consumers on Twitter expect a response within an hour (Embree, n.d., Smith, 2019).

Fortunately for retailers, there is an antidote to social fury known as social care (Walgrove, 2018). Social care is the practice where retailers admit accountability and when possible, make concessions and reparations to their unhappy customers, in a timely manner. 81% of consumers believe that retailers have become more accountable due to a complaint process that can swiftly damage profitability, and many retailers report the inclusion of a social media customer support team with scripted guidelines and dedicated training for employees (Allen, 2017, Newberry, 2019).

Finally, unhappy customers are invisible to the naked eye. Unlike their very conspicuous superhero counterparts, they do not wear costumes or capes, spin webs, or command lightning bolts; however, profitability may swiftly implode as consumers, armed with only a keyboard and internet connection, unleash their social fury superpower with sarcastic, unflattering, and potentially damaging tweets or posts, thus fulfilling their mission to rid the world of perceived retail injustice!

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Walgrove, A. (2018). 5 Stats that prove social is the new frontier of customer care.  Sprinklr. Retrieved from