March 29th, 2010

Nestle. A Corporate Social Media Disaster.


A recent social media nightmare exploded for Nestle last week in the face of a recent Greenpeace campaign. The result has been a lesson to any corporate committed to engaging in the social media space.

Greenpeace launched a campaign featuring a graphic video to highlight the use of palm oil in Nestle products. (If you love Kit Kat, avoid this vid) The video soon went viral with hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube and significant exposure in facebook and twitter. With 92,000 facebook fans and a global media machine hungry for mess ups like this, Nestle chose to do just about everything they possibly could to make the situation worse.

Rather than following in the footsteps of progressive companies such as Starbucks (who set up a blog to hear the concerns of their customers), Nestle broke some of the golden rules of the digital world. Firstly, they have tried to remove the video (on the grounds that it was improper use of their brand!) and subsequently deleted negative comments from their facebook fan page. Obviously hearing, addressing and ‘engaging’ with the concerns of their ‘fans’ and followers was just not a priority. Maybe the social media team at Nestle thought that status updates on how sweet chocolate is was enough. The result? Not only have they lost the trust of many of their customers, a subsequent global media backlash has seen a boycott of their products in the lead up to Easter. Only then has the company implemented change and canceled its contract with the palm oil supplier.

The opportunity missed here was massive. Firstly, Nestle could have engaged with their global community and made the change before it became a PR nightmare. (Lets just forget for a moment that they were using palm oil in the first place) If Nestle had reacted in this way, it would have showed them as being interested in the concerns of their customers, the well being of the planet and it would have been a big win for crowd sourced (or in this case, ‘crowd forced’) change. Blogs like this would be referencing Nestle as a great example of how they listened to the people. Instead, they have become a figurehead for corporate social media neglect.

If you are committed to social media, breaking some of the rules can have enormous consequences. Consider the following.

- Engage with negative feedback like you do positive. Don’t delete, edit or hide from negative comments (unless abusive)

- Be part of the conversation and don’t try and ‘control’ the space.

- Listen to the crowd. They are probably your customer.

This also throws some obligation back onto the consumer or follower. If you would like a company to respond to your feedback, be polite, honest and play nice. I personally believe a company has a right to not respond to anonymous, abusive and rude attacks much like you wouldn’t respect a person in the street approaching you the same way. It’s a great world we live in when an organisation like Greenpeace can start a global movement that gets a huge corporate to change its way by posting a video on Youtube.

What should Nestle do now?

Its still not to late for Nestle to engage with their following. They will need to be transparent, open and prepared to be exposed to a barrage of negative commentary around their brand. At least they have the opportunity to be part of this conversation. As for regaining trust in the social media space? I don’t think canceling a few palm oil contracts will do the trick.

Posted by admin


I guess there is also issue here that this is just another in a long history of BAD actions by Nestle. They really have there fingers (pardon the kit-kat pun) in a lot of undesirable actions.

Comment by Tony Cormack March 29, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

Reassuring to see how social media can affect change. Public opinion forces Nestle to switch suppliers and the Orangutan retain their habitat for the moment. check out the zoo site for more info on how you can make a diff….

Comment by Andrew Englisch March 29, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

[...] Kit-Kat also learned a hard lesson when Nestlé critics invaded its Facebook page to attack the company and Kit-Kat staffers tried to head off the attack by removing posts. Nothing lights a fire online like a bout of corporate censorship, so of course the result was the opposite of the desired effect. [...]

Comment by In the land of the blind law the one-eye social media is king | Monty's Outlook June 16, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

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