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?

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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?