Have you been keeping up with the travails of Nestle of late? The company has become the latest whipping boy in the PR world for the way it has handled a recent attack on its reputation—particularly in regard to Facebook.
Here’s the scoop. Greenpeace launched a concerted attack against Nestle to try to get the manufacturer to stop using palm oil, particularly from suppliers which use methods that threaten rainforests and the orangutans that live there. Greenpeace activists have been talking about this issue for quite some time without satisfactory reaction from Nestle. So Greenpeace supporters took their protest straight to Nestle’s own Facebook page. Anyone can post. And post they did. The critics piled on and soon Nestle was being bombarded on several PR issues on their own Facebook page.
The company’s reaction was (and continues to be) most puzzling to PR experts. Their first comments came across as threatening and condescending. See them here. After that early debacle, which infuriated fans and has been reprinted on countless blogs and news sites, the company has had almost no response. Their Facebook page, which the organization set up, continues to be a gathering place for Nestle bashers to make countless accusations, all without any defense from the organization. The momentum continues to build and the only response from Nestle is hidden under the Media tab on their Web page. Interestingly, Nestle has pledged to use only “sustainable palm oil” by 2015, but at this point, no one is listening.
There are several morals of this story:
- Social media is about dialogue. If you’re not listening when early criticism rises, you’ll miss the opportunity to address concerns while they are still whimpers.
- Have a plan in place. Decide in advance: who responds to criticism on your Facebook page and how do they respond.
- Don’t put inexperienced social media people in charge of your corporate response on Facebook.
- You don’t “own” your Facebook page. If you aren’t prepared to use your page as an avenue to hear blount assessments of your organization, don’t set up the page.