Nestle Facebook Lesson In Social Media Disengagement

Posted on April 22, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The two-way street of social media offers a more personable way to engage with audiences than traditional marketing avenues.

People can leave comments on your blog, Facebook fan page or Twitter account and you can respond in kind.

It’s a great way to build brand affinity. Consumers have a voice in your online space. This sends a message their opinion matters. You gain valuable feedback, too.

However, beware — the street can be pocked with potholes.

Watch for road hazards on the two-way street of social media

Case in point: Nestle’s recent kerfluffle on Facebook.

The genesis of this fiasco began when the environmental awareness group Greenpeace called Nestle out for obtaining palm oil from “companies that are trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orangutans towards extinction.” Greenpeace created a video and website campaign to denounce Nestle. The campaign featured a disparaging version of the logo for Nestle’s Kit Kat candy bar with the word “Killer” on it.

The Killer logo and others equally offensive to the company started circulating in cyberspace, prompting Nestle to post not once, but twice, a statement on its Facebook page that they were not going to stand for anyone messing with their stuff.

How NOT to moderate a Facebook page

Nestle soon found itself in one fine mess. Facebook fans took Nestle to task, telling the company they were free to do as they pleased. Here’s the start of the thread to the post:

That’s not even the half of it. Comments came pouring in, fast and furious, a few in favor of Nestle’s stance, but the vast majority taking up verbal arms against the arrogance of the Nestle spokesperson who basically flipped the bird to Facebook fans.

I suspect it goes without saying this is not a good thing to do on a platform that is open to the entire world. Indeed, the spat got picked up by media outlets across the globe.

You can’t control what others say about your brand (and this is not new)

Clearly Nestle missed the memo about how you can’t control what people say about you, and, if you need to respond to negative comments, it’s best to do so in a way that does not alienate or otherwise insult people.

Now lest you think this phenomenon of consumers being able to mess with your brand arose from the openness of social media, rest assured, word of mouth, good or bad, has been around as long as we humans have been talking to one another. There’s also a long history for alteration of corporate logos  — MAD magazine loves to do this sort of thing, and you’ve likely seen t-shirts with spoof versions of popular logos, too.

Social media just makes the whole thing a lot more public and a lot more viral.

What can you learn from this?

This is one for the books: Count on the incident being used in case studies about how not to engage in social media. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of how to do it wrong.

Meanwhile, there are lessons to be learned here. Such as:

Make sure you understand the ways of social media before you engage in this space. There are lots of do’s and don’ts and if you need some learnin’ here I suggest reading either The New Community Rules, by Tamar Weinberg, or Six Pixels of Separation, by Mitch Joel.

Make sure the person you assign to handle social media tasks knows how to properly interact with the public. Good manners and knowledge of how to appropriately respond to comments of all kinds is imperative.

Be prepared for negative feedback. No matter how wonderful you are, someone somewhere can have a bone to pick. Realize it may wind up in your social space.

If a crises does arise, be quick to put out the fire. Admit your mea culpa.

Don’t let one bad experience sour you on social media. See what you can learn and do it better the next time.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Comments welcome.

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4 Responses to “Nestle Facebook Lesson In Social Media Disengagement”

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This is an interesting story and you did a really insightful wrap-up, great reading for me.

Some of the important points you raised we also addressed in our SM Monitoring group here:

Greenpeace vs Nestlé – How the food giant fails social media 101

The sad story for me is that so far the effect upon KitKat sales has been limited …. (my resources tell me).

And while Nestlé has stopped using the accused supplier, I wonder if this will help save palm trees… Might it just be a case where the supplier finds another client … to replace whatever Nestlé bought before?

Nevertheless, this episode or case illustrates nicely that one can use Social Media for one’s own purposes AND gain a lot of attention for one’s own brand, aka Greenpeace.
However, we must also ask if this will save palm trees when all the dust settles.

BUT this case is surely a great example of what not to do with social media when the crisis hits.

Nestlé’s advertising people and agency were simply overwhelmed. Worst is that the company’s corporate folks in Vevey had failed to see the writing on the wall…. no pro-active corporate-wide crisis strategy had been drawn up before and was in place. Hence, when the crisis hit, the response was terrible or we can say it represented how to fail social media 101 big time.

I just cannot understand how Nestlé could have made the mistakes you describe in your post, except for a low-paid employee at the advertising agency’s end being put in charge…

The case demonstrates also that the risks one takes with outsourcing should not be underestimated. If you leave such important work as monitoring and engaging on your Facebook page to low-paid flunkies, the damage to your brand could far outweigh the savings you may have realized thanks to outsourcing.

Thanks for sharing.


Right, the other side of it is the PR that Greenpeace gets on behalf of its cause. As you note, will it save palm trees — well, who knows? In any event Greenpeace accomplished its mission of embarrassing Nestle – first with its own campaign, and then via the ineptitude of Nestle’s response to the ruckus subsequently created on Facebook. And Nestle is no longer using the company that was ruining the forests, so Greenpeace gets a victory there, too. One may suppose any win counts toward something.

Meanwhile, many thanks for the inside skinny — it sounds like you have some good knowledge of how things went down on Nestle’s end. I did not know about the ad agency’s involvement and had wondered whether the person handling the Nestle Facebook page was an intern, since so many companies assign interns to social media tasks thinking they “grew up digital”. And while I agree with your point on not putting flunkies in charge, I would not necessarily say they are only found in outsourced situations (see prior note about interns). I think the salient idea is more that companies need to hire someone with the maturity and experience to handle crises situations, period.

Great article, and clearly a lesson of what not to do in social media.

I wonder if the person in charge of postings was super amateur, a lawyer, or someone with a total lack of skill for PR or customer service. It’s really hard to believe someone in charge of marketing or PR would have such aggressive attitude.

Great old-school advice for our brave new world.

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