Recalls are common and in some cases the reason for the recall can be minor but how it is interpreted and shared online socially can end up being detrimental to a brand. Virality and all that is shared socially (Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc…) can be a brand’s biggest friend or enemy and in cases of negativity not leveraged enough (read: Why Marketers Should Know the Difference Between Viral and Social).
Old Spice was able to take an “Old Man” brand and make it sexy within days, Lipton Brisk was able to take a beverage and make it a colorful character, and despite controversy over massive recalls Toyota sales rose last year. Recently though Toyota got into some hot water surrounding claims of potentially “bribing” of mom bloggers. What will be interesting now is to see Toyota sales for this quarter. As news often travels socially between Facebook shares or tweets, this wildfire-like approach should be managed well and control-burned. Got a recalled product? Sometimes having an excuse to actively converse with consumers isn’t a bad thing.
Here are 5 tips for brands to handle recalls online and still be social:
1) How to Care About Consumers, Virtually
Sure you could send an e-card or perhaps a poke to a loved one online, but if you are a corporation how do you reach out and hug your consumers? The best way to care about consumers is to immediately set a group or network up online, whether a Facebook tab or specific hastag for the recall. Having a specific hashtag versus just #recall will make it easier to filter through the tweets and allow for dialougues between users to break out while still being under an umbrella of transparency. If you choose the hashtag you get to watch the conversation and have control in seeing where it leads. Recalls are scary but if it becomes a team effort consumers will feel heard and appreciated.
2) Increase Online Engagement
The happiest of consumers will never email you to say how amazing your product is. Your product is SUPPOSE to work so taking a negative episode and flipping it to an excuse to engage can actually save you on ad budgets and surveys. Even if momentarily and not for the optimal reason, you do have the attention of your consumers– take advantage! Figure out where the consumers are coming from, how are they back-linking and sharing news related to your product. What are they doing and what would you like to know in this five minutes of limelight?
Now that you as a brand are vulnerable the best thing to do is stay calm and open. Vulnerability can be a good thing, it allows for consumers to see your brand almost as a person. Shutting down or trying to distract your customers will only lead to more distrust and potential online upheaval. Breathe, show humility, and keep all conversations open. Honest is respected and forgiven much faster than forced compliance.
4) Untapped Opportunities
Take a few creative people on your team with either agency or PR experience and figure out where the gaps are in engagement and find new opportunities. Were people upset at the product issue combined with product cost or was it that the deal was solicited on Facebook and recalls soon after? Find the gap of where there could be an opportunity to take the current PR channels and spice it up. You may find that your main consumer is actually reading a blog you had never heard of so all that coverage in CNN was only falling on 5% of your audience.
5) How to Retain Affected Consumers
By listening, engaging and keeping information in the open you now have the opportunity to gain a lifetime customer. The biggest issue with recalled products is time and if you can make things appear honest and require as little time as possible consumers will see you as a brand that makes mistakes but always fixes them. Becoming a “trusted” brand can take experiences with product issues but if everything is managed well, retention levels can actually increase.
Each year product recalls can cost up to $100 Billion dollars from indirect costs like brand counter-advertisement, organizational restructuring and consumer engagement. Some of the most commonly identified recalled costs:
(This article is by our resident SocialTimes entrepreneur, Ellie Cachette. Cachette is the founder of ConsumerBell a start-up that specializes in helping brands through product recalls. For more articles by Ellie, click here.)