Adverse Event Best Practices for Businesses Engaged in Social Media

Rick Kingston
President, Regulatory and Scientific Affairs/Sr. Clinical Toxicologist

It’s been more than a decade since Facebook and Twitter launched in the mid-2000s. At the time, we couldn’t have predicted the sphere of influence social media would have on society – and our businesses.

For most companies, social media has become a managed function alongside more traditional marketing functions like advertising and public relations. But the role of social media has evolved to be much more than an emergent platform within the marketing mix. It is also a valuable source of information for manufacturers who want to understand more about how consumers are using your products.

An inherent responsibility of having a business presence on Facebook and other social media platforms is monitoring posts and interacting with consumers publically. And as we all know, in addition to posting positive experiences with products, some consumers turn to social media to vent their frustrations.

From a product liability and regulatory perspective, it’s incredibly important to respond to negative social media posts regarding product safety issues in a timely and appropriate manner. By getting out in front of the situation, you can better manage the consumer’s needs and protect your brand.

So, what steps should you take when a consumer shares a negative experience on social media that could be a potential adverse event?

  1. Respond to the consumer as quickly as possible within the social media platform. Never delete a negative comment unless it includes profane or offensive language.
  2. Be empathetic and communicate that you’d like to better understand their experience so you can help resolve the issue. Ask them to reach out directly to your company’s health and safety experts (SafetyCall) or your customer service department, and provide an email or phone number they can use.
  3. Once they make that connection, manage it within your adverse event system and processes to determine any regulatory needs based on incident details and level of severity.
  4. Follow-up as necessary with the consumer to ensure the issue has been addressed.

Keep in mind that when products are in the hands of consumers, a myriad of circumstances can spur adverse events – and they may or may not have anything to do with the inherent safety of the product. Is it a new and emerging product issue not experienced in the past? Is it being caused by a new use pattern, or happening with a new population targeted by advertising? Or perhaps caused by a consumer mixing products or dosing inappropriately?  Lastly, it may be none of those issues and simply involve an adverse event perceived by the consumer as being associated with your product.  If not properly managed at the outset, any of these issues can quickly escalate and take on a life of their own in the social media world of internet hype and urban legends.

Whether the potential adverse event is communicated via social media or other means, our experts at SafetyCall can assist in managing all aspects of incident management and investigation. We ask the right questions to uncover the facts, provide counsel, and help you determine the best path forward.

Learn more about how SafetyCall can help your business navigate adverse event reporting.

Rick brings over 30 years of professional experience to the SafetyCall team. His contributions are broad in the areas of clinical toxicology, pharmacology, poison control, product post-market surveillance, and drug and dietary supplement safety. He has helped to shape national policy relating to product safety in many areas and regulatory jurisdictions including, EPA, FDA, and CPSC regulated products. Rick also enjoys his academic affiliation with both the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Product Research, which is an FDA Center of Excellence. He enjoys national speaking engagements where he shares his vast knowledge of product stewardship including best practices related to adverse event post-marketing surveillance and regulatory reporting of incident data.

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