A group of Chinese residents in New Zealand and others with close ties to China have been vigorously defending, via social media, New Zealand’s brand in the wake of Fonterra’s whey protein contamination crisis.

An analysis published on New Zealand’s Rural News this week revealed the social media posts were sending messages to consumers in China that NZ was “safe and trustworthy”.

According to Rural News, there are more than 200,000 Chinese people living in New Zealand, so the potential for reaching China through these networks is enormous.

“If every Chinese person living in New Zealand actively communicated to their networks in China via social media, they could potentially reach out to tens of millions of consumers,” said Simon Young, CEO of SyEngage.

He believes social media responses in the current Fonterra crisis should be treated with the same importance as press releases, conferences and journalist interviews.

“Social media is primarily a people-to- people medium and, in an environment of low consumer trust such as China, the authentic voice of a friend, colleague or fellow-citizen bears far more weight than an official pronouncement.”

Rural news noted that “this should be a wake-up call to NZ companies to ‘up their game’ in the digital space”.

“One company’s mistake is costing an entire industry. Social media is one way brands can communicate directly with consumers, which just may prove essential in a crisis,” it added.