Pay attention PR students…this one will be in the “what not to do” section of the social media case study book for a while. Nestle, best known for Kit-Kats (IMHO), is embroiled in a fierce “oh no you didn’t” battle with social media…yes, all of it.
Here’s what happened according to Caroline McCarthy at CNET:
So here’s how it appears to have started: Environmental activist group Greenpeace has long been putting the pressure on Nestle to stop using palm oil, the production of which has been documented as a source of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and endangered species loss. A provocative new Web video campaign (warning: may be a bit nauseating) on behalf of Greenpeace’s U.K. arm targeted the food manufacturer as a threat to the livelihoods of orangutans, and according to Greenpeace, Nestle lobbied to have the video removed from YouTube, citing a copyright complaint. Cue plenty of free press for Greenpeace.
But it got worse. These days, just about every brand has a public forum in the form of a Facebook fan page, and Greenpeace supporters–whom the activist group had encouraged to change their Facebook profile photos to anti-Nestle slogans that often incorporated one or more of the company’s food logos–started posting to the Nestle fan page en masse. Nestle countered with a mild threat: “To repeat: 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.” A Nestle rep diving into the comments of the thread with responses like “Oh please…it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments” didn’t calm things down.
Long story short, fans are really TO’ed and Nestle is in social media time-out. (Finger shaking) Learn how to interact properly with your fans and then you can leave the corner. Maybe try and take a hint from Starbucks, a company that has weathered storms of criticism and prevailed…mainly based on the company’s loyal Facebook fan page and Twitter following that they have spent a great deal of time and energy building. For example, last year Starbucks was accused of donating its profits in Israel to fund the country’s army — even though Starbucks doesn’t have any cafés in Israel. Starbucks’ social media progress allows the company to manage any discontent that is expressed within the social media space. Starbucks calls this the “embassy strategy,” making MyStarbucksIdea and its Facebook and Twitter pages places that when you go there you know you’re going to get the straight scoop.
Nestle should have taken the time to listen to the concerns of their fans and not responded so brashly to their comments. It obvious Nestle customers want the company to stop using palm oil. Nestle should listen and take this as an opportunity to come out with some new “organic,” non-palm oil Kit-Kats so everyone is happy. I know I’d buy them and maybe Greenpeace would lay off a bit.
(Disclaimer: I realize I’ve been writing about Starbucks a lot recently. It’s not cause they paid me to (I wish), but rather it’s because I’m writing about them for my graduate capstone project. So I’ve been reading about Venti soy lattes for weeks now. And they have some good social media strategies.)