Five lessons from Nestle's Facebook PR disaster

International confectioner Nestle is being given more than two fingers for its foray into Social Media, proving my personal theory that Web2.0 often acts as a “whinge tunnel” for resentful consumers and other interest groups. Nestle has set up a Facebook ‘fan’ presence, and many visitors are using this space to criticise the company’s environmental and operational credentials. The overwhelming sentiment expressed is anti-Nestle. It’s been dubbed both a PR disaster and covert controversy management…For my money, there’s a few things Nestle could have considered to help avoid the critical excesses of this mini-pr disaster…

1) It says the site is for people who want to celebrate their favourite Nestle brands; clearly, consumers are disregarding and disrespecting Nestle’s house rules for its site; they’re not celebrating Nestle at all. But what did Nestle (with its controversial PR credentials) really expect, wine and roses?

2) Nestle’s Facebook tone of voice is all wrong; it’s at times scolding and a bit sarcastic – that doesn’t foster positive Web2.0 PR

3) Perhaps Nestle should have first selected a forum (other than Facebook) that allowed it to set stronger privacy and moderation setting? A niche Ning network, for eg, and a measured digital reachout campaign might have helped it cultivate a core cohort of digital Nestle fans. If it had done that, they might have had better, more credible defenders for their public Facebook site.

4) Mashups and deconstruction are an everyday part of SocMed; people don’t care about Nestle’s corporate logo – let them play with it; don’t sweat the logoplay too much Nestle. Not in this forum, anyway.

5) Web2.0 is a field where anti-corporate activists play smarter, more aggressively than corporates. It was maybe inevitable that any foray would restimulate interest in the Palm Oil/deforestation/orang-utang extinction debates. Opportunistically, Greenpeace are jumping on the bandwagon in this regard. And the viral spread may create additional stakeholder pressure; so, is Nestle prepared for the bigger PR battle it may have to fight, after traditional media pickup on digital PR activism?

As a belated mea culpa, Nestle changed its Facebook status to read – “Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go. Thanks for the comments.” But from a digital PR perspective I have to ask, “Why learn the lesson so painfully and so publicly, when some Web2.0 PR savvy could have avoided this entirely?

2 thoughts on “Five lessons from Nestle's Facebook PR disaster

  1. I agree with Tracy. I think the message here is pretty loud and clear. The answer is not to try and control discussions around your brand through moderated social media channels.

    If you are really committed to hearing from and engaging with the community via social media then be prepared to follow through and respond in a meaningful way when you need to.

    Ultimately, you’ll be forced to do so as anyway – as Nestle discovered. They’ve turned an opportunity to look like a company that listens to the community into into a PR and brand disaster!


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