Yesterday, several members of our social media team attended an all-day symposium in Chicago about social media for nonprofits, and it made me reminisce about the events that pulled us into social media in the first place.
In January 2009, the FDA confirmed that an outbreak of salmonellosis in people was related to peanut butter and peanut butter products that originated from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) facility in Georgia. Knowing that peanut butter is a popular ingredient in dog treats, we knew that pet treats wouldn’t be far behind. And we were right. Pretty soon, the dog treat recall notices started rolling in. Then came recalls of bird suets and similar bird feeds because peanut butter products were common ingredients in them, too.
Although it had been a couple of years since the large-scale, melamine-related pet food recalls of 2007, that experience left a lasting mark on us because of the scope of the recalls and the outcry for information. The recalls taught us valuable lessons about getting urgent information out to our members and the public.
We’re proud of our efforts during the 2007 recalls because we provided the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on recalled products. Our communications team worked long hours to keep our site updated, and it was worth every bit of effort because we knew how important it was to share that information with some very interested audiences.
As we evaluated our efforts in the aftermath of the recalls, we learned how critical it was for us to get information out as instantaneously as possible. We also faced the big challenge of providing important updates on weekends, since we don’t have staff in the office on Saturdays and Sundays.
Enter the Twitterverse. Twitter became our first real foray into the social media universe. It allowed us to get information out 24/7/365 with little to no delay once it had been confirmed, whether or not we had any staff in the office to update the AVMA website. Our first Twitter feed was AVMAPeanutWatch, and it used a peanut image as its avatar. It was a very successful effort, as people came to realize the value of the Twitter feed.
But, as expected, the peanut butter recall eventually came to an end. So what to do with the Twitter feed? We renamed it AVMARecallWatch, and it now focuses on reporting alerts and recalls associated with pet foods, animal feeds, drugs and other products. The feed has about 2,000 followers, and that number continues to grow.
Skip forward to 2011, and we’ve now got a Facebook page (the evolution of that is another story), 7 Twitter feeds, 3 blogs and a YouTube channel, to name a few. We love the opportunities these sites give us to interact with animal owners and veterinarians in more personal and individualized ways.
It’s funny to think that a little legume can have such long-lasting effects.