Webby Awards Executive Director David-Michel Davies is scheduled to speak at the ETA Conference in Toronto on Friday.

The traditional route of complaining to businesses via phone, e-mail or even letters have been replaced by a more efficient and effective medium: Social media.

Webby Awards Executive Director David-Michel Davies and his team comb through thousands  of sites each year to find the best and most innovative sites on the Internet and, along the way, Davies also picks up on the most current trends.

“What we’re seeing, is that in 2011, people are turning to places like Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks to complain about brands, products, and the service they’re using,” said Davies.

“A lot of brands and companies are recognizing that people are voicing their dissatisfaction in these places and so they’re creating accounts or virtual help desks to try and solve these problems,” he said.
And why not vent in these public forums?

Response times are quick, especially since some companies have allocated resources in staffing positions to deal with these issues specifically, and the company in question might even throw in a freebie as an apology.

“If you’re somebody on Delta Airlines, you tweet that you didn’t get the food you’re supposed to or you didn’t get the seat you had reserved or whatever it is, they actually have an account there searching for people talking about Delta and try to fix their problem,” he said.

Davies says it’s the ‘golden age of complaining.’

“You’ve never had a larger soapbox to stand on top of and a more hyper-connected community to complain to,” he said.

This is still a very new area for many businesses, says Davies, who are learning and struggling with whether or not to respond to the public criticisms and how to approach them.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the complaint, companies either have to deal with the repercussions of ignoring them, which could hurt their reputation, or do something about it.

“If you get somebody who has a big following on Twitter complaining about you, and it’s not fair…. The person’s still doing it,” Davies said.

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