Companies today know that social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are great ways to build brand awareness and greater brand loyalty. However, most companies are missing opportunities to protect their brands by using these same tools to plan for and execute recalls. Food for thought: from May 2012 to May 2013, nine of the top ten most-discussed product recalls on Twitter were related to food. As social media networks continue to grow as primary channels of communication for consumers, we at ExpertRECALL believe it is critical for food manufacturers to develop techniques for using blogs, Facebook and Twitter during a recall, as well as other crises that could affect their brand.
Incorporating social media into your recall strategy also makes sense in the new era of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), as companies switch their recall preparedness from a reactive basis to a preventative one. Listening to your consumers using the latest social media channels is just as important as applying the newest scientific techniques and comprehensive safety plans — all help protect the public from foodborne illnesses. For example, if your company isn’t monitoring social media chatter online, you could miss one of the easiest signals that something has or is about to go wrong: a sick (and vocal) customer.
As you consider incorporating social media networks into your recall plan and execution, here are three tips that you might not have considered on how to use them most effectively:
- Quell false alarms: In some cases, consumers may mistakenly post about an old recall that has been closed out, prompting the “Twittersphere” or other channels to incite panic among consumers over a non-existent recall. Worse, ill-intentioned customers can spread false rumors about a food product in an attempt to drive unnecessary negative attention to the company or receive a refund. It’s critical for your communications department to monitor social media networks in addition to traditional outlets to quell any chatter that is incorrect or misleading. Watching social media for keywords specific to your brand can help put out the spark before it becomes a fire.
- Build trust by getting the word out: A short post to consumers on a company blog, Facebook or Twitter can place a company one step ahead of the conversation during a recall. Being transparent and letting your customers know about the situation firsthand — rather than encouraging them to rely on other sources — can reinforce that your company cares and is available and willing to respond to any questions or concerns. The most socially savvy of companies reach out to their most loyal fans concurrently with media during a recall event, encouraging their followers to spread the word through their networks and building even greater brand loyalty. In this way, companies can rely on their consumers to pass on the correct and critical information.
- Fix the communication gap left by Loyalty Cards: For years, many companies faced with a product recall have relied on self-identified contact information from their distributors’ loyalty cards programs to reach consumers who had purchased affected SKUs. However, companies are increasingly ending their loyalty card programs, leaving a gap in communication when a recall strikes. Worse, consumers have grown tired of being inundated by emails, making social media a preferred channel to leverage for recall communication. Using social media to communicate specific product details can reach consumers who might be left in the dark otherwise and prevent further damage to the brand.
Keep these tips in mind when considering how to integrate social media networks into your recall plan. Not only will you make better use of the social media infrastructure your company already has in place, but by aligning your communication methods alongside the evolving social media space, you can ensure that you are reaching as many consumers and stakeholders as possible and building trust and confidence in your brand.
Mike Rozembajgier is Vice President of Recalls for Stericycle ExpertRECALL™. Rozembajgier is responsible for all aspects of recall service offerings, including development of strategic recall business initiatives and product enhancements. He has more than 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Prior to joining ExpertRECALL, Rozembajgier held various management positions at Guidant Corp. (now Boston Scientific) and at Deloitte in the Strategic Consulting practice.