The speed at which bad news can spread on social media means that it is essential for firms to have plans in place to deal with product recalls in a quick and open manner, claim industry experts.
Problems with products are often reported on social sites such as Twitter, long before the Food Standards Agency (FSA) or the manufacturers involved hear about them, said Julia Johnson, senior consultant for risk and crisis management at consultancy, College Hill. Monitoring such social media is essential to quickly identify and react to such issues, she added.
With traditional consumer care telephone lines, a manufacturer would have to decide how many calls it took before an 'anomaly' became a more serious problem, said Vince Shiers, md of consultancy and training provider RQA Europe. However, on Twitter, an issue may have become a 'trending topic' long before a manufacturer gets many phone calls. A robust complaints collation system is essential for any recall plan, said Johnson.
Social media opportunity
But social media also gives manufacturers the opportunity to reach out to consumers and distribute their messages more quickly and more widely, in a similar way to how the FSA uses text messages, she added.
While speed is of the essence, accuracy is important too, she said. Issuing a recall for a batch of products and then issuing further recalls causes consumer confusion, said Johnson.
Equally, it is important to decide whether an issue warrants a withdrawal where product is removed from retailer shelves without notifying the public or a full product recall, said Johnson. Where there is a danger to health, a recall is mandatory. But if it is a quality issue, a manufacturer can decide what course of action would be least damaging to a brand, she added.
"The priority should be consumer protection. If a company leads with that, the business and brand will be looked after as well," said Shiers.