Thursday 29 September 2016

Using Social Media to Respond to Product Recalls

Look at any Facebook wall or Twitter feed and it’s likely you will see at least one post about a bad product experience, or worse, a mention of an injury caused by a faulty product or recalled item. Social media allows consumers to quickly and publicly discuss product problems—and federal regulators are listening. Though a general increase in oversight by regulators should not be ignored, the ubiquity of social media has contributed to a significant increase in recent years in the number and magnitude of product recalls. The FDA and USDA report that on average, 30 recalls occur every week in the U.S. and according to AIG, an average of 22 recalls occur every week in Europe.

With recalls come litigation and uncertainty and panic from consumers, as well as public demands from consumers for companies to not only fix the problem but compensate affected consumers. The level of public awareness and concern will drive the significance of a recall, but it is important to keep in mind that in the U.S. the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) not only holds companies liable for the issues that lead to a recall, but for the effectiveness of the recall effort itself.

In order to effectively incorporate social media into recall communications, it is vital that response teams build an integrated plan beyond a simple Facebook post or Tweet. Below are a few tips to keep in mind.

1)     Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Rapid response teams need to prepare in advance and think across multiple social media channels to make sure they are fully covered online. This includes developing an early warning monitoring system that looks for early signs of product complaints and failures, developing toolkits to help guide a rapid respond process, training community managers, identifying who will approve statements and posts; classifying what digital channels will be used in advance (e.g., a dark site or where statements will go on web assets, social media, etc.), determining who controls those channels and making sure they understand the rapid response process, and perhaps developing dark posts.

2)     Establish an online beachhead.

Make sure you have a place online where you can create a clearinghouse of information. This might be a blog, web page or even a full micro site. This should serve as a, education resource for media, consumers, regulators and others interested in the recall and should help address misinformation, simplify complexities, answer questions and provide additional resources.

3)     Drive people to the beachhead.

This isn’t “Field of Dreams.” Just because you build an online clearinghouse doesn’t mean traffic will come. A variety of techniques can be used here, including posts on a company blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social channels, but it’s important that consistent keywords and messages are used across platforms to help with search engine optimization. Paid media is an option as well. It will be important to be measured in your outreach approach and to strike a balance between creating the right amount of awareness and “findable content” versus creating too much attention, thus making the issue a bigger deal then it needs to be. Be mindful of any other promotions or online activities currently running and determine whether they need to be postponed immediately.

4)     Fight the urge to go on lockdown.

After you get information posted and broadcasted through the right channels, establish a regular response cadence. There’s no need to respond to everything, but identify the types of posts, questions and comments that would benefit from a response and keep the lines of communication open. It is important to have clear internal guidelines on what can be said and what is off limits. Allow fans to continue to post and provide them a forum to engage. If you go on lockdown it’s likely to create a story in itself and could lead to a missed opportunity to engage with stakeholders.

Recalls create brand uncertainty and can cast a negative light on a company. However, if handled properly, a company’s response can help reinforce brand affinity and bolster competitive advantage. How has your brand responded to recalls on social?

Editor’s note: This post is part of #recallawareness month, led by blog.consumerbell.com.

Image credit: Les_Stockton

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