Social Karma

I have been thinking for a while about how people use social channels to get brand frustration off their chest. That is, when you have a bad and frustrating experience with a product/service/brand, human nature is to say, “I will get even with them.” And social media provides a great avenue to spread concern, discontent, and literally warn others about the brand. Many get a cathartic feeling by venting on Twitter, Facebook, or their favorite social platform. I must admit, I have partaken in such activities.

But there is a positive side. Social media can also be used to trumpet a brand and some users are compelled to share their positive views.

The question that has bugged me is whether people generally use social media to complain or advocate their brand experience. A YouGov survey (commissioned by social media monitoring company Brandwatch) found that over a third of those who interact with brands through social media do so to complain compared to the 17 percent who do it to publicly embarrass brands. I would also add that I performed some brief research on the percentages of positive/negative brand mentions via social media. I found statistics all over the place largely skewed by vertical industry and brand category.

But here is my concern and I think it should be yours as well. Increasingly, I use social media reviews (whether it is Yelp, Amazon product reviews, or any other platform) to guide me in purchase decisions. At the same time, my own personal intuition leads me to believe that more people use the power of social media to vent a bad product experience as opposed to advocating a great experience. (I am guilty of this and thus my subjective perspective.) But I am depending on you and millions of others to share their experience, both positive and negative, so that I can make better decisions. The more people that participate, the more accurate reviews will be. Don’t we want that from each other as opposed to the vocal few?

Forrester was the first to provide statistics on those that comment in their Social Technographics report back in 2007. Yes, percentages have shifted since then, but by and large the magnitudes remain the same with somewhere around 10% of “commenters” give or take a few percentage points based on vertical or topic. A more recent study shows that the percentage of consumers providing feedback on products and services on social media sites increased from 12 to 16% over the last year. So yes, things are trending up with regards to people participating in social reviews. And I am suggesting that there needs to be greater social karma from all of us to take a few minutes and provide social reviews. Why? For the simple fact that we all depend on them, so we should all do our fair share of participation. That is social karma – or at least just scratching the surface of social karma.

While the above represents my thoughts on social karma for the week, I would be remiss by not mentioning another aspect of social karma … the act of using social platforms to help one another. Yes, we have seen how social has been used to help victims in Haiti and Japan as well as stir human democracy in lands run by tyrants. Yes there are platforms like to help people follow their dreams and other non-profit fundraising sites like,, and, but there are also other little stories and acts of kindness demonstrated in the social place.

The following is a beautiful story that @graubart shared with me this week (in his words) …

I occasionally post to a Gretsch guitar forum. ( While forums seem old and dull, compared to FB and Twitter, the depth of relationships developed there tend to be stronger than the links made on the newer platforms.

Anyway – the demographics of the users on the Gretsch forum are very different than what we see in the tech world – some of these guys are professional musicians (not big names – the kind who struggle to make ends meet) and others are working low-wage jobs. So the past few years we’ve seen a lot of forum members go through some economic hardship.

Last week we learned that a regular member, who hadn’t been posting for a few months, was in financial difficulty. He’s getting remarried in a few weeks and had actually sold off all his guitars to help pay for the wedding (almost an O’Henry story). So, a few of us emailed each other and I started a fund to buy him a Gretsch as a wedding gift. As of this morning, we’ve collected $1,010 in my Paypal account – from around 40 members in at least 5 countries. Some gave $100, others $10, whatever they could afford.

I reached out to one of the sponsors of the site – a small Brooklyn-based guitar shop run by a great guy. He’s agreed to provide a guitar at or below his cost. So, the forum member will end up with a great guitar, which I think is a key to marital bliss.

These are guys I’ve never met (the guy getting remarried is in Minnesota) but they’ve all shared their knowledge and experience with me in recent years. And we’ve built strong relationships on the forum.

This is the type of thing people in any community would do for a friend, but it’s cool to see how this can happen in a virtual community.

What a great story and example of the positive power of our digital social world. What are your thoughts on social karma as it relates to product reviews? Got a social karma story you would like to share … please do … we all love these stories and maybe yours will inspire greater social karma.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve



Filed under behavior, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

2 responses to “Social Karma

  1. Jim Matorin

    Not surprised that most comments are negative in nature given I once read in the Heath Brothers Switch that a little over 60 percent of the adjectives in the dictionary that describe emotions are negative – call it human nature. Re: Social Karma, love the concept, i wish I witness more, but unfortunately too many people are to inwardly focused (c’est moi) these days to spread the karma and we certainly do not have to wait for a disaster to spread the karma.

    Good post Steve. We should start a Social Karma movement.

  2. Just to add to the Gretsch story above.
    Yesterday, I reached out to the member to let him know what we’d been up to – and that a new Gretsch would soon be coming his way. Here was a part of his response:

    I just don’t know what to say besides “Thank You!!!” Believe me when I say, it did bring a tear to my eyes. You all are an awesome group!

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