The situation began when environmental protection group Greenpeace, who are known for their unorthodox methods of gaining attention, created a video parody on YouTube of Nestle’s KitKat chocolate bar.
The video parody (not for the faint hearted) suggests that the production of a key ingredient in the product, palm oil, leads to the destruction of rainforests.
Nestle demanded that the video be taken down but it went viral, reappearing on multiple video sharing websites. Then Nestle's Facebook page was flooded with angry comments from Greenpeace supporters, whom the activist group had encouraged to change their profile photos to anti-Nestle slogans that incorporated the company's food logos.
Nestle’s Facebook administrator countered with the following threat:
Nestle: 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."
Unsurprisingly this attempt at censorship didn’t go down particularly well and a barrage of angry critics flooded their page:
Paul Griffin: Your page, your rules, true, and you just lost a customer, won the battle and lost the war! Happy?
Nestle: Oh please .. it's like we're censoring everything to allow only positive comments.
Darren Smith: Honey you need new PR
Jagos Golubovic: I was a big fan of your products, but now, when I saw what you guys wrote, I think I'm gonna stop buying them.
Helen Constable: I'd like to know if the person writing the comments for Nestle, actually has the backing from Nestle? I doubt it. Even a dumb ass company like them would get such an idiot to be their public voice.
Nestle: I think you missed out the 'not' there, Helen
Hyra Zaka: is a nestle rep running this page?????
Responding to one of hundreds of messages about the deforestation and it's effect on endangered Orang-Utangs, the administrator brazenly countered: "Get it off your chest - we'll pass it on."
Not only was this a social media disaster, it’s managed to bring the central issue - the company’s connection to deforestation in Indonesia and its effect on indigenous people and Orang-Utans - to more eyeballs than even Greenpeace could have hoped for.
What happened to Nestle happened because the person charged with managing its Facebook page was either under-qualified or unprepared to do their job properly. Handled differently, the attack on Nestle’s facebook page could have been better managed and the outcome could have been radically more positive for the brand.
Here’s a few Corporate Facebook tips that Nestle would have done well to remember:
1. DON’T insult your fans - negative comments and the way you respond to them is visible to all your followers. Aggressive and inflammatory remarks are a sure fire way to antagonise even the most passive reader.
2. DON'T Censor their comments - silencing your critics will only add fuel to the fire. As bad as it might seem to have criticism showing up on your Facebook page, it’s infinitely worse to have the mainstream media pick up on your censorship, unless you live in China, the internet is a democracy.
3. DON’T respond unless you have something positive to say. Nestle’s mistake was responding to criticism before they had a valid point to make. By the time they announced their plans to use 100% renewable palm oil by 2015, the damage was already done – nobody was willing to listen.