Nestle debacle demonstrates common social media misunderstandings

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"Consider yourself embraced" - Nestle's Facebook group becomes a public relations disaster as it forgets some of the key rules of social media.

Food firm Nestle bit off more than it could chew in the social media space last week, as the already embattled business found itself embroiled in a row about the use of its Facebook page.

Last week Nestle became the target of a Greenpeace campaign aiming to highlight how the use of palm oil in its products was leading to the destruction of Indonesian rainforests and the native orangutan population.
As part of this, Greenpeace redesigned its homepage as a mock-up of the Kit Kat logo which read ‘Nestle Killer’, urging visitors to ‘stop Nestle destroying rainforests for palm oil’ and encouraging them to apply pressure by writing to the CEO via the website.
Unsurprisingly, concerned consumers also turned to Facebook as part of the campaign to engage Nestle about the issue. With around 90,000 ‘fans’, the Nestle Facebook group is clearly something that the firm has lavished time on building. However, its clumsy attempts to engage with fans on Facebook on Friday only succeeded in causing further anger amongst users, with coverage rapidly spreading across other social platforms such as Twitter.
Having already attempted to exert control over the social space by pushing YouTube to remove the above Greenpeace video about Nestle (ostensibly on the grounds of copyright infringement), its censors turned to its own Facebook group. With some ‘fans’ having changed their profile pictures to Greenpeace’s mocked-up version, the social media team responsible for Nestle’s group lit the touchpaper by announcing "please don't post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic - they will be deleted."
A series of sarcastic responses to user comments followed, as depicted below. The pick of the bunch being "Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it’s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus."
In addition to users taking umbrage to the tone of the responses, some also claimed that their comments were being edited and deleted. This led rapidly to the construction of a new Facebook page - Your Nestle Comments Won't Get Deleted Here – while reports of the fiasco spread across the blogosphere, news media and Twitter within minutes.
Under fire for its poor handling of the situation, the Nestle social media rep eventually posted an apology: "This (deleting logos) was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologize. And for being rude. We've stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude."
Nevertheless, by this point the debacle had garnered so much coverage that users were flocking to the Facebook site, rapidly turning it into the frontline for protestors. One look at the posts on the page today demonstrate the scale of this.
Faced with a major FAIL on its hands, the Nestle team has wisely acknowledged its mishandling of the situation, with little sign of it attempting to police its ban on altered Nestle logos on its Facebook page – and the addition of a new corporate statement:
The whole sorry affair demonstrates once more that businesses cannot throw their weight around in the Web 2.0 world. Companies cannot control the communities. They don’t have ownership of them. And attempts to manipulate and moderate the social world will not be tolerated by users.
Nestle spurned a golden opportunity to engage with customers about a legitimate concern, and communicate the company’s line about this issue. Instead, it seemed to forget that - social platform or not – its Facebook group demands the same level of etiquette as any other, and that staff operating on that touchpoint need to be just as professional and courteous as with any other.
Hours after the online dust up, it posted the following message:
 
Unfortunately for Nestle, by then the damage had been done. And now it finds itself with another public relations disaster on its hands.

About Neil Davey

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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.

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09th Apr 2010 10:20

CEO's of large organisations around the world just don't seem to understand that their customers are far more clued up and opinionated about the way the business operates. I can't remember who said that your business doesn't own your brand: your customers do. And it's not just companies: politicians like Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, and Jacob Zuma in South Africa are under pressure to lead and inspire, and leaders of religious groups, like the Pope with the current paedophile priests crisis, are being forced to take responsibility. As a 52-year old customer, I just love the power that the internet has given us.

 

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