A study has found Australians will boycott organisations based on what they see on social networking sites.

The study, commissioned by RightNow Technologies and conducted by StollzNow Research, found that nearly a quarter (23%) of online Australians have boycotted a company after reading a negative comment on social media about how that organisation treats its customers.

Of those participating in the boycott, 42% said they had previously been a customer of the organisation.

According to the study, nearly a fifth (18%) of those polled have posted something about their poor customer experiences on Facebook, 11% have joined a group on Facebook opposed to the company in question, while others have Twittered, blogged or found negative videos on YouTube about the company and shared them with friends and family.

In every case, the top reason Australians took the action they did was to dissuade others from doing business with the organisation.

Commenting on the survey’s findings Brett Waters, RightNow’s vice president of Asia South Pacific, explained that the survey’s finding serve up a stark warning for all organisations, both commercial and public, that ignoring the viral nature of the social web can be detrimental to revenue and popularity.

“Any executives considering what social networking sites mean to their business should take heed of the survey’s overriding message; consumers want you to interact with them through sites like Twitter. Organisations must take a considered approach, monitoring conversations so they can learn the where, when and how of positively influencing ‘badvocates’ and fostering further loyalty among advocates,” says Waters.

While the study revealled that negative consumer-to-consumer conversations or comments online can have a detrimental effect on consumer spending, it indicated that there is massive potential for organisations to interact with consumers through the social media to foster brand loyalty and to turn ‘badvocates’ into advocates.

Other findings from the report include:

  • 66% said they’d also welcome contact from the organisation following a positive comment posting
  • More than a third of Australians (34%) have seen a positive discussion about a company’s products/service between consumers on the social web and then visited that company’s website and made a purchase
  • 13% said they have had a dialogue with a company through the social web and then made a purchase
  • Telco’s receive the highest number of comments (18%), and most negative commentary 71%
  • Travel & leisure companies are the most likely to receive positive comments (73%)
  • Government agencies receive 8% of posted comments, 63% are negative
  • Financial Services receive 7%, 62% of these are negative
  • Retail gains 15% of posts, 47% are positive, 36% are negative, and
  • Electronic goods providers receive 12%, of which 48% are positive and 35% are negative.