Friday, 19 March 2010

"Social media: as you can see we're learning as we go. Thanks for the comments."

"Need a break? So does the rainforest" is the latest Greenpeace campaign against Nestlé, who they accused of using palm oil in their Kit-Kat recipes, from companies that are 'trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orang-utans towards extinction.' 

The above video went viral almost instantly,with almost 200,000 views on YouTube alone, and it made critics take Nestlé Facebook page by storm, flooding it with complaints and accusations of unethical behaviour.

And that's when the series of bad decisions by Nestlé started, showing off the ugly side of social media and the tremendous repercussions it can have on a brand, accounting for a true PR disaster for the company.

First bad move that they made was asking for the video to be removed, citing copyright claims. If the company is so worried about their image, shouldn't their first priority have been severing ties to the rainforest destruction actions that they are responsible for? Because, let's face it, nothing good can ever come out of trying to hide the trash under the rug.

More even, Nestlé can learn a lesson in social media from Greenpeace who, immediately after the video was taken down from YouTube, posted it on Vimeo and used Twitter and other platforms to spread word about Nestlé's censorships attempts. They eventually got the video re-uploaded on YouTube and the story made every national and local newspaper, whether in print or online.

Administrators of the Nestlé Facebook page didn't really do a good job either of accommodating the influx of negative comments. Among their responses we saw:

"…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.
"Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it`s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus." 
"Oh please .. it's like we're censoring everything to allow only positive comments." 

Not even in the face of the disaster that was their Facebook page at the moment could they accept that they had completely lost control over their corporate social media communications. Snapping back at your commentators, trying to impose your rules cause it's your playground they're in, is never the right course of action. And these snarky Facebook comments only succeed in infuriating users further. Nestle's entire social media crisis response strategy was a huge fail, showing off their lack of preparation or planning for such a situation. At the moment the company has over 95,000 fans on their Facebook face, a great number of which joined solely to write their complaints and thoughts surrounding the situation. The final count was of over 120,000 negative comments agains the company's actions.

The first sensible thing posted by Nestlé throughout the entire situation was "Social media: as you can see we're learning as we go. Thanks for the comments." It may, however, have come a bit to late. 

Things got even worse on Twitter, where the company has a whooping 9 followers!(why do they even bother having a Twitter account in the first place when engaging in a conversation with users is definitely not in their intention?) The only response on this social media platform from Nestlé was a link to a statement on their website. They totally missed out on the opportunity of starting a dialogue with their followers, answering their questions and calming down the situation. 

As Ian Duff, a spokesperson for the Greenpeace campaign against Nestlé, correctly observed: "Nestlé have brought this outrage onto themselves." By being completely unprepared and incapable of correctly managing their social media platforms. And the problems were not only brought on by the crisis situation Greenpeace threw them in. The roots ran deeper, into an dreadful social media strategy, which is unacceptable for a corporation of the likes of Nestlé. 

This Nestlé PR disaster should be a lesson for all corporations, big or small, on the power of social media, and how easily it can turn against you. However, the Greenpeace case should also stand out as a best practice case of how to use the power of social media for your cause. Social media doesn't have to be something than companies should fear and avoid. But it should be something treated with all seriousness and any social media strategy should be thoroughly though out, planned and implemented within a clear framework or rules and practices. 

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