Courtesy of Chris Harrison

Social media acts as a significant brand asset, allowing companies to excel at customer service, connect with brand advocates, and glean market insight.

The online channel also enables consumers and advocacy groups to pressure companies to change. Sometimes, they get exactly the response they want from companies, as described in The New York Times’ recent article, Social Media as a Megaphone to Pressure the Food Industry.

The article spotlights consumers, bloggers and advocacy groups that use social media to force big-name food companies to reconsider ingredients in their foods.

Vani Hari, who founded the blog Food Babe, wrote several posts about potentially harmful ingredients in Chick-fil-A sandwiches and other menu items. Chick-fil-A saw these posts and consumers’ reactions to them, and invited Hari to spend a day at its headquarters to discuss her concerns and possible changes.

The result: Chick-fil-A eliminated the dye Yellow No. 5 from its chicken soup, reduced the soup’s sodium, and is testing sauces and dressings made without high-fructose corn syrup.

The article’s key takeaway is that consumer complaints may seem like a headache to companies, but can ultimately benefit both the company and the consumer.

Advice to brands: don’t ignore complaints, especially when they come from influential consumers or advocacy groups. Customer criticisms should be seen as opportunities to improve products and, ultimately, the corporate reputation.

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