Lessons every Brand can learn from the Nestle fiasco

5 Days later, the dust is yet to settle on Nestle’s Facebook debacle. A lot has been (and I reckon, will be) written about what Nestle did wrong and as I’ve already mentioned here, this is one for the Reputation Management textbooks. However, there are important lessons to be learnt here if a Brand uses (or is planning to use) social media for engaging with consumers. While anyone can set up a fan page – running one requires considerable understanding of the medium, and the psychology of online users.

Admit mistakes: If there is a problem and you know it, you might as well as  readily admit to it. Honesty goes a long way in mollifying irate people, provided it is done at the very onset of the situation. Apologising after you’ve pissed off a lot of people by acting like the playground bully doesn’t count.

 NEVER be condescending towards a commenter: When tempers are flaring already, you really don’t want to give anyone even the slightest reason to lash out. Because if that happens, you’re going to end up with a virtual lynch-mob on your hands like our friend at the Nestle Facebook page did, within minutes. Giving commenters lessons in grammar and spelling is  not going to help your case. More importantly, if you are snarky with even one person online, soon enough you’ll have a hundred people baying for your blood, and the numbers will just keep rising. That’s how online communities work- it’s all about strength in numbers-and virtual mobs are just as hard to reason with as real mobs.

You don’t make the rules in social media: Accept that by choosing the medium, you choose to talk to the consumer as an equal. Censoring comments is the surest way of upsetting people visiting your page because it indicates that you are averse to providing fans ( a term I’m using very loosely here) with a democratic platform.

Always have a plan: Having a crisis management plan in place that can be deployed online at the first hint of trouble is of utmost importance.  If there is a situation online, who do you call? Who responds to what kind of situation? Are you prepared to respond in multiple formats (videos, blogs, releases, forums etc)? Do you have people who can create content quickly? Apologies, statements or rebuttals may need to go out within minutes, is your Communications team prepared enough?

 Hire a Pro for your social media ops: It’s best not to hand over your social media ops to a person just because you think they’re young enough to “get it”. PR online is not very different from PR offline when it comes to the fundamentals, and Brands need people who understand the psyche of the online user more than people who merely know their way around social media.

Respond to the online community: Case in point- Nestle’s deafening silence on their Facebook page. Keeping quiet will not help your case during a PR crisis. Responding honestly might, as it puts a human face to the corporation and shows critics that you’re listening.

Anything I’ve missed here?