In the current information landscape, there are numerous channels for consumers to find information on issues pertaining to food safety. The rise in popularity of social media makes communicators question the extent to which resources should be allocated to these channels in order to reach new segments or audiences which are hard to reach through more traditional dissemination channels. A segmentation approach was used to identify groups of consumers based on their inclination to use different channels to seek information about food-related risks, including traditional media, online media and social media. In the wake of the 2011 Escherichia coli contamination crisis, the study focused on a bacterial contamination of fresh vegetables. Results were obtained through an online survey among 1264 participants from eight European countries in September 2012. Four segments were identified: ‘a high cross-channel inclination’ (24%), ‘an established channel inclination’ (31%), ‘a moderate cross-channel inclination’ (26%) and ‘a low cross-channel inclination’ (19%). Results show that social media can act as a complementary information channel for a particular segment, but that it is not a substitute for traditional or online media. Individuals who showed an inclination to use social media in conjunction with other channels considered it more important to be well informed, were more motivated to find additional information, were more sensitive to risks in general and perceived the likelihood of a food incident in the future to be larger. The ‘high cross-channel inclination’ segment contained relatively younger and more Southern European participants.
Kuttschreuter, M., Rutsaert, P., Hilverda, M-S. D., Regan, A., Barnett, J., & Verbeke, W. (2014). Seeking information about food-related risks: The contribution of social media. Food quality and preference, 37, 10-18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2014.04.006