How “Social Media Experts” let Nestle down. Badly.

by Matt Burgess on March 24, 2010

If you’re on… well, any number of social channels, really… you would have noticed the “Nestle” furor over the last few days. If you somehow missed it, here’s an executive summary:

  • Greenpeace target Nestle for their involvement in the deforestation of orangutan habitats through the sourcing of palm oil, which they use in their products. This includes a video on youtube, which Nestle have removed, but which (rather obviously) pops up all over the internet and whips social media users in a lather. This then spills over onto Nestle’s Facebook page, which protesters making their voices heard.
  • Nestle responds badly, with rather rude, dismissive comments. They refuse to accept dissent on “their” page.
  • This pours oil on the flames.
  • Social media “experts” rub their hands with glee, and start crowing about how “Nestle don’t get it”.

Ok, that’s the executive summary. But this isn’t another piece about how Nestle got it wrong, because – quite frankly – there’s enough of those.

This is a piece about how social media experts let Nestle down. Badly.

Over the past week, I have been amazed at how eagerly social media commentators have pounced on this story and trumpeted it from the mountain tops… (here’s the kicker) without offering any constructive criticism.
In the Australian crowd, I saw this over and over again. Two examples that stood out:

  • The folks over at SmartCompany put out a piece discussing the “bungle”, and I see it retweeted a few times. The article discusses the events that led up to (and including) the Facebook revolt in detail. But when it comes to the advice that they offer, by way of James Griffin, chief executive of online reputation management group SR7? Here it is:

    “Griffin says many businesses don’t understand how devastating the consequences of a failed Facebook campaign can be, and suggests Nestle needs to shape up its marketing practices and take online reputation management seriously.”

    Oh, well done everyone. We know more than they do. Let’s not offer any constructive criticism in specifics, let’s just talk in generalities.

  • The other example came from a bunch of guys who I actually think are super-friendly folk over at FrankVizeum. They went wild on their Twitter page, holding on to the issue like a dog ravaging its chew toy, pointing out and sharing every negative post that talked about the debacle. But I never once saw them link to anything that added constructive criticism). (Update: when I started this post in my head, that was the case. However, when I went back this evening to check their Twitter link, I see that they have… a bit late though lads).
    And, again… they were lobbing a few jabs at Nestle with tweets. And as I’ve discussed on my personal blog a while back, it’s easy to throw out “insightful thoughts” in 140 characters… but if you want me to take them seriously, then follow up and elaborate on them. Don’t just throw out a tweet with one or two buzzwords.

Why do I think this is a problem?

Well, we’re the folks that are always saying how “brands need to stop ignoring social media”, right? But put yourself in the shoes of a brand who is thinking about testing the waters. If they’re on the fence, and they’ve just seen how we all reacted… well, you can bet your bottom dollar we just scared them off, and cost ourselves a future client.

We really, really need to stop doing that.

In the interests of eating my own dog food, I want to point you towards two posts that, I felt, looked at the issue from a constructive point of view.

  • Olivier Blanchard over at the BrandBuilder blog took, what I feel, to be the most balanced, pragmatic look at the whole affair that I had seen. I love the way that Olivier acknowledges that Nestle have – gasp – shareholders that they need to report to. This might be a foreign concept to a lot of the social media folk that I’m talking to in this post, but sometimes big brands can’t do whatever they want.
  • I also loved this post from Tom Cunniff. It’s my first exposure to his writing, but after reading the post, with its line of “Some of the snarkiest anti-Nestlé voices are from self-appointed social media experts” made it clear that we see eye to eye on a few things.

We need to wise up guys. There’s no point in scaring off our clients by laughing at them when they get it wrong. Let’s offer our help, and show them how to get it right. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a new client out of it.

What do you think? Am I way off base here?

Image credit: friedtoast

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Tweets that mention How "Social Media Experts" let Nestle down. Badly. -- Topsy.com
March 24, 2010 at 4:27 am
Things that were delicious this week… 26 March, 2010
March 26, 2010 at 12:35 am

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 tamir March 25, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Hi Matt,

First let me say that until now I generally liked your stuff but I do think you’re off in this case. I find it odd you didn’t offer real time information about the Nestle case or real solutions but instead opted to “call-out” people who did.

Let’s get the facts right first: Most of our tweets are links to what was unfolding in real time. And yes, unfortunately for Nestle (which got it terribly wrong) many of the posts were negative. We thought this is something our clients need to know and prepare for. In my humble opinion this is the first time a facebook fan page has been hijacked – big news for brand & communication agencies (this is also why we had so many RT’s on this issue).
Then we have tweets like these:
“Top ten ways to prevent a #Nestle disaster: Don’t tell your customers on facebook they have to play by your rules: http://bit.ly/bEATTm”

“Will #Nestlé Ever Reclaim its Facebook Page From Protesters? http://bit.ly/aZnjFU If you were their social media person what would you do?”

“RT @jowyang Prepare Your Company Now For Social Attacks « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | .. http://tinyurl.com/ykf5avp #Nestle”

You mention you’ve seen these but concluded it’s too late. Too late for who/what? I wonder if it was too late for you to change your post as it was already “in your head”.
Your headline doesn’t make sense either. Letting Nestle down? How? As far as I’m concerned Nestle is not paying us to solve their communication issues. Another thing that you would have known if you asked is that I personally called Nestle head office this week not once but twice to let them know about the Facebook debacle and urged them to do something about it.
It’s great you’re playing the judge but I wish you had the decency to ask for our view before posting.

Reply

2 Matt March 26, 2010 at 1:58 am

Hi Tamir,
Thanks for taking the time to respond… and I’m sorry it took so long for your comment to get out of moderation!
First off, in response: thanks for your kind opening :)

Just by way of furthering this:

“I find it odd you didn’t offer real time information about the Nestle case or real solutions but instead opted to “call-out” people who did.”

I just want to make clear that the intention of this post – whether I managed to get this across or not – was not to call out people who put out real-time information about the incident. Far from it. I think it’s a valuable study. What I am calling out is the people who didn’t contribute anything by way of constructive criticism. Basically, I saw it as a “Nelson Ha-ha“. If people furthered the discussion more than a “look how badly Nestle have handled this”, I was – and am – all for it.

Most of our tweets are links to what was unfolding in real time. And yes, unfortunately for Nestle (which got it terribly wrong) many of the posts were negative. We thought this is something our clients need to know and prepare for. In my humble opinion this is the first time a facebook fan page has been hijacked – big news for brand & communication agencies (this is also why we had so many RT’s on this issue).

I totally agree with you that this is an important issue… and also agree with you that this is probably the first time a page has been hijacked, at least to that extent. And I know that you were reporting on the news, which unfortunately was all negative. But this is where we begin to differ. Just as in journalism, I like a bit of commentary added. I suppose, what I’m saying is that I think those tweets you were sending out would have been great… with some commentary added. See above point. Again, this is my personal opinion so I have a feeling we’ll disagree on that, but that’s what a blog is for I guess.

You mention you’ve seen these but concluded it’s too late. Too late for who/what? I wonder if it was too late for you to change your post as it was already “in your head”.

Yep, freely agree with you on that point. I worded that sentence badly, because that’s EXACTLY what I meant. I’d already hit publish, went back to check I’d got the link correct (pulled it out of my head the first time… well done on getting it to stick there), and decided to keep the post as is, because – quite frankly – it was already out there. Point still stands though… your initial approach when things started happening was – to my mind – to link to posts simply attacking Nestle with no constructive criticism. Why was it that I only saw the other tweets you mention later? Well, to be honest, I was turned off by that approach and stopped paying attention. Perhaps other people (and importantly, brands) might have reacted in the same way too? If this post makes you question that in the future, then I’m happy. Although I regret the fact that that might have come about at the cost of causing offence.

Your headline doesn’t make sense either. Letting Nestle down? How? As far as I’m concerned Nestle is not paying us to solve their communication issues.

No, of course not… but just because we don’t get paid to do things, doesn’t mean that as a community we don’t collectively have some kind of responsibility to improve things. I honestly feel that we should have done more to add commentary on how Nestle could “get things right”, instead of “this is what you’ve done wrong, now suffer the consequences”.
That, and the fact that I might have been slightly angling for more clicks with a title like that ;)

It’s great you’re playing the judge but I wish you had the decency to ask for our view before posting.

If that’s an open invitation, I’ll be sure to bear it in mind if I ever get a bee in my bonnet about you guys ;)

All in all Tamir, I hope that this post doesn’t come across in a vindictive manner, because I certainly didn’t mean it in that way at all. To be honest, the reason you guys were at the top of my mind when I wrote this was because I really do like what you personally have to say. And I suppose that’s why I was disappointed with the whole thing. It’s the whole “being held to a higher standard thing”… it’s a tough burden to bear, but no one ever said it would be easy being looked up to.

Can you see my side? Even if you don’t agree with it?

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3 Mark Spizer May 2, 2010 at 11:28 pm

great post as usual!

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