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Dear Nestlé: Social media is a double-edged sword

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Brands & Campaigns

Today’s guest post is from Mark Story. Mark is the CEO of Intersection of Online and Offline, LLC and has served as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University.

Recently, Nestlé found themselves the victim of a social media “protest” by Greenpeace.  The aim of the online movement is to “register their concern that the palm oil used by Nestlé is driving deforestation in Indonesia.” I don’t know much about deforestation, but I do know a social media/online reputation screw-up when I see one.

Urged on by Greenpeace, activists began flooding Nestlé’s Facebook fan page with a slew of negative comments. Nestlé’s response?  Snarky retorts.  When activists began changing their Facebook fan page logo to the Nestlé logo, whoever was monitoring the FB account responded with comments like “Oh, please, it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments,” and “Thanks for the lesson in manners.  Consider yourself embraced.  But it’s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus.”

These comments threw gasoline on the fire.  The responses spurred on the activists — crossing over into print media. Whoever was posting the comments later apologized, but the damage was done.  Lessons (hopefully) learned by Nestlé?

  1. If you encourage people to become a fan of your company through social media, it is a double-edged sword.  You have to take the positive aspects of Facebook fans and accept negative consequences.
  2. Monitor your social media outlets — especially on weekends (when this controversy erupted).
  3. Make social media part of your crisis communications plan.  Be ready at all times to respond.  Rule #1 of crisis communications is avoiding crises.
  4. Put an adult in charge.  When responding  to negative information, make sure that a seasoned communications person posts comments and responses.

The outcome?  Nestlé has now been listed by The Atlantic as a “Social Media PR Disaster.”  Ouch.

Given the Nestle fiasco above, what additional strategies or tactics do you think Nestlé should have taken?