Nestle’s Social Media Fail

Oh dear. Nestle is having its backside handed to it on Facebook in what will go down in many a Business School text-book as one of the worst Social Media Fail case studies. Nestle has been facing boycott campaigns for more than 30 years now but we didn’t have Social Media in the 70s and 80s, did we? Now that we do, the crap has hit the fan and how! Their page on Facebook is flooded with uncomplimentary messages after whoever manages their PR/Social Media operations threatened to delete comments that protested against the company’s alleged role in the illegal clearance of rainforests by using altered versions of their logo, that quite ironically uses the image of a nest of birds.

It all started when Greenpeace alleged Nestle’s palm oil supplier Sinar Mars was involved  in illegal rainforest clearance in Indonesia. A virtual protest movement took birth with people using altered versions of the Nestle logo as their Display Pictures and posting some pretty strong comments on the company’s Facebook page.  Nestle replied saying, “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.” To nobody’s surprise that post received around 166 comments, most of which were pretty acidic.

A commenter Paul Griffin wrote, “I understand that you’re on your back-foot due to various issues not excluding palm oil but social media is about embracing your market, engaging and having a conversation rather than preaching!” To which Nestle replied saying, “Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it’s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus.” Uh oh. What a whopper of a fail!

Nestle had cancelled its contract with Sinar Mas when the protests first broke out. But instead of assuring people who commented on their page that they had done so, were learning from their mistakes, and valued their customers’ opinions they decided to channel the spirit of a petulant 5-year-old instead. You DO NOT set the rules when you venture into Social Media, you’re an equal. You use the space to converse with your consumers and tide over a crisis like this by assuaging their doubts about your practices and products, not by acting like a playground bully. How is Nestle going to get out of this one?

21 thoughts on “Nestle’s Social Media Fail

  1. As the quoted person above I feel it’s important to emphasise that the campaign all started with Greenpeace’s video and research into unsustainable palm oil. I doubt very much that Nestle is the only culprit but they did decide to put their corporate head “above the parapet” using Facebook and subsequently people started shooting. Had their response been more along the lines of what might have been expected then I doubt this debate would have had nearly as much traction as it has gained. Obviously there are huge social mdeia lessons here but it could just be that is actually taking shape and having an effect after all this time!

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  3. OMG I can not believe the attitude of the social media mangers looking after the Nestle brand, someone needs to give them a lesson in humanity, humility and in how to be nice, never mind how to run a brand online.

    I have noticed that the campaign is also having a negative effect on the companies share price – this could be massive.

    Asa Bailey
    Viral Agency Inc.

  4. Hire your Social Media reps with a world of care, is probably the biggest moral of this story. All of this could have been so easily avoided if only the Nestle reps hadn’t acted the way they did.

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  6. Give me a break. They should molycoddle people violating their trademark and abusing their brand on their own page? No, on social media, you’re not equals. The Page does set the rules and guides the interaction. It’s not a free for all. Nestle should not have responded in kind or sarcastically- that was a mistake. The rest- active moderation of their page, removing members who have a political agenda- is acceptable. We have a number of fast-growing Pages; we and fellow page owners do the same. The Greenpeace protestors are not “customers” looking to have a dialogue with Nestle. This is only a PR debacle because Greenpeace has won the PR war and convinced the press it is one.

  7. I feel that just because you can set the rules on your fan page doesn’t mean you should declare it in an authoritative manner to your community members. It’s all about the tone here. Nestle could have waited for its supporters to defend it (like a few are, even as we speak), or it could’ve politely *asked* people to not abuse their brand on their page. Declaring that they “set the rules” and coming across as prissy didn’t help things, did it. Also censorship is a social media no-no, the charm of the medium lies in the fact that it is democratic.

    As for the altered logos- whether usage of said logos as personal DPs ( a non commercial usage) is a violation, only a lawyer can tell.

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