Social media has sparked a culture of calling out businesses. Consumers are taking it upon themselves to highlight and amplify brands’ bad behavior for the world to see. Situations involving bad customer service and rude employees no longer take place in isolation, according to Sprout Social’s Q3 Social Index report.

“But how prevalent is this culture for the everyday consumer, what impact does it have on others’ purchasing decisions and what can a brand do to turn it around? To answer these questions, Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 consumers to find out.”

“It’s clear that people recognize that power. In fact, 81% say that social media has increased accountability for businesses.”

“Brands must commit to delivering consistent, quality content and service—online and off—regardless of how big or small an issue may seem. And when they make mistakes, the need for honesty and transparency is greater than ever.”

Businesses need to take the power of social media seriously. The new AudienceSCAN results showed 79% of Americans participate in Facebook and 33.5% are all over Twitter.

“Smaller scale call-outs are becoming a regular online occurrence. Whether people are uploading a video of a delivery man recklessly tossing fragile packages over a fence or Retweeting an unhelpful response to a simple customer inquiry, everyday consumers are beginning to find their voice.”

“Nearly half (46%) of people have used social media to “call out” or complain about a business.”

“While 55% of people are likely to say something in-person, social media is close behind with 47%. Email is trailing with 42% and only 35% of people are likely to turn to the phone to air their frustrations.”

A call-out could actually be a great way to engage and connect with followers. Use the opportunity to respond in a positive way as well as solicit feedback from social customers. The AudienceSCAN survey found 20% of Social Networkers sent feedback to a business using the Contact Us form on their website in the past 6 months.

“But when you look at Millennials, the tables have turned: Social is the most likely channel for this generation to voice their concern, with 59% of Millennials saying they’d use social to address an issue. In-person confrontations came in second, with 51% of Millennials identifying in-person interactions as their most likely choice.”

But what can businesses do about it?

“When consumers complain and get no response at all, 40% say persistence is key—they’d reach out again using another customer service channel like phone or email. However, almost as many (35%) would never buy that brand’s product or service again and roughly 1 in 3 would share their negative experience with their network online (31%) or offline (34%).”

“It turns out that an unhelpful response is worse than no response at all. About 50% of consumers say they’d never buy from a brand again after that brand responds poorly to their complaint, illustrating that a bad response on social increases the chance of consumers boycotting by 43%.”

“Now, let’s take the opposite approach and say that a brand does respond well to the initial call-out. The change in results is startling. Nearly half (45%) would go back to social media, not to complain but to highlight the positive interaction. Yes, a helpful response from a brand can quickly turn someone who started out complaining into a positive advocate.”

Businesses can even rave about their response time through social media. The new AudienceSCAN study reported 31% of Social Networkers took action after seeing ads on social networks in the past 30 days.

“Furthermore, about 36% of people would share the positive interaction with a friend either online, 37% or offline, 36%. Overall, 37% of people said that they’d buy from the brand again, despite their initial poor experience.”

Sprout recommends, “Consumers want to see brands assume responsibility, speak directly to their customers and apologize when necessary. To show your customers how seriously you take an incident and how dedicated you are to making it right, you may even want to go two steps further than an apology.”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.