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?

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