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Nestle versus Facebook "fans" — the mess of social media protests


Nestle is facing a brand crisis from a coordinated social media protest.

Another brand crisis is making headlines. First Tiger Woods, then Seaworld, and now a favorite snack-food maker, Nestle.

This time, the assault on the brand was an organized effort started by Greenpeace on their website, blog and through Facebook and Twitter. The protest was not centered on one new story in the news but instead stems from a long-standing criticism of Nestle's use of palm oil and the effects on rainforests and the habitat of orangutans.

Through a concerted effort, protesters began to flood the Nestle Facebook Fan page with negative comments and to send tweets about the company and its practices.

What has helped this story gain traction is the extremely poor response from Nestle itself. When "fans" started using altered Nestle logos as their profile pictures, Nestle posted a reply which added fuel to the fire. "To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don't post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic--they will be deleted." This led to comments about Big Brother and stifling of dissent. The wording of Nestle's reaction was childish, rude and unprofessional.


One of the early exchanges between a Nestle representative and Facebook protestors .
 
More than the actual reason for the protest, Nestle's repsonse is what hurt them most. A later comment from a protestor said it best: "Hey PR moron. Thanks you are doing a far better job than we could ever achieve in destroying your brand."
But what is a company to do when faced with such an organized attack via social media?
Have a clear social media plan in place before jumping into the water. A good plan includes more than how often to send out messages, what those messages will be, and how to measure the public's response. A good, complete plan also involves setting and publishing clear policies for both the corporate representative and consumers in expected behavior (such as the rights to use logos, and a ban of inflammatory or offensive language) and having the right resources in place to deal with social media issues.
Have a social media staff of experienced managers. Because social media is such a new practice, most companies make the mistake of assigning the work to interns or Gen Y staff fresh out of college. The idea is that people of that age are more in-tune with how social media works. That is a dangerous practice, as shown by the Nestle staffer's response. A manager with several years' experience dealing with marketing and PR issues, crisis management, or branding should always be involved in the company's response to any criticism online.
Understand that your social media pages are not truly owned by you. Yes, with the capacity to shut off comments or even take down an entire page, you can somewhat control the content. But that will only push your criticizers to another site that is completely out of your control. Just as your brand identity is a combination of how you would like the public to see you and how they really do, your social media persona is also a mixture of what you present and the words of the community.
Plan for the worst, even if you never have a crisis. Clearly, Nestle and its social media employee was not prepared for the onslaught of negative comments. After the childish responses, the company followed with more than 60 hours of silence before putting a more appropriately worded response on their corporate site. The first rule of business should be to never insult the public. The second should be to always have a calm response to criticism, even if it is something as simple as "Thank you for your comments. We are looking into X and will release a statement by Y." And the third rule would be to then deliver on that promise. Respond when you say you will and be sure the response addresses the actual complaint and is not just a PR or marketing spin.
If Nestle had listened to consumer complaints years ago, they might have avoided the entire brew-ha-ha and instead had true fans leaving positive feedback on their Fan page.
 
For more info: Contact Brand New Concept Marketing for help in creating your social media plan.
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Comments

  • Kelsey 4 years ago

    Wow- I can't believe that Nestle responded that way!

  • Debi Teter 4 years ago

    It is shocking, Kelsey. And it also proves that large multi-national companies don't necessarily have a better handle on marketing and PR than small businesses.

    Thank you for commenting.

  • Praz 4 years ago

    I'm going to make a braver statement and say , I have doubts, whether MOST companies in Australia have the right skill-set or people to handle Social Media Strategies...

    www.socialwizz.com

  • Howard 4 years ago

    Stay away from Facebook. Life is so much easier. Think back 5 years, remember?

  • Cindy Kim 4 years ago

    Sometimes it's best to say that if you don't get social media, then you shouldn't be in charge of social media. We see this on a daily basis where marketers and PR folks think a standard response (per their policy) is what works best. When it comes to social media, "no comment" doesn't fly. It's about listening to what people are saying about your brand and responding to add that human voice. If you're going to put the effort into building social media channels, then be prepared to engage and join the conversation. Understand how to manage your brand and engage with the people who are talking about you.

  • Estu 4 years ago

    Oh please. Another myopic view of the world that doesn’t extend beyond your laptop…

    All this stuff about engaging in a "conversation" is nonsense. This was a person in a company reacting badly to an organized effort by an activist group to pump their message and embarrass it on a free online social media service. But Nestle is the largest food and nutrition company in the world. To equate some PR guy getting huffy on Facebook with the Tiger Woods and SeaWorld crises is ridiculous. This is a tempest in a teeny ultramicroscopic teapot.

  • Debi Teter 4 years ago

    I have to respectfully disagree, Estu. Nestle, Tiger Woods, and SeaWorld are all international well-known brands who are facing a lot of negative media attention.

    The missteps by the PR person were only a small part of the story. The bigger issue is that companies have to understand that their social media pages can be used against them by protesters, and they need to be prepared in advance with a plan to deal with that if it should ever happen.

    I guarantee you that the Nestle executives are not looking at this as if it were a tempest in a teeny ultramicroscopic teapot.

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