Social media FTW!

There have been many instances of crowds rising up to overturn something they don’t like online. Most of us remember the Facebook Beacon fiasco from a few years ago that ended up killing off that program. Or maybe you were part of the mass that ended the injustice of Betty White not hosting Saturday Night Live. But now it seems that the power of the crowd has made one company change their practices for the better.

I’m talking about Nestle. Until recently, not many people knew that Nestle was using palm oil in their products and in the process destroying rain forests, contributing to global climate change and the extinction of indigenous species who live there.

Greenpeace launched a full on social media assault on Facebook and YouTube, urging people to change their profile pic to this mocked up Kit Kat logo:

modified kit kat logo

Additionally, they posted disgusting videos this like (warning – it’s gross):

These were the opening salvos in what became an all-out guerrilla war against  Big Candy. As Facebook users began peppering the Nestle fan page with demands that they change their recipes and stop using palm oil.

What happened next was probably beyond Greenpeace’s wildest dreams. Someone at Nestle put an idiot in charge of responding to these comments and said idiot began fighting with consumers, insulting them, making snide comments and deleting unfavorable posts. Essentially he (I assume it’s a he) wrote a “How NOT to deal with a crisis in social media” manual.

Much was written about the problem and Nestle’s response, but the best part was written recently – Nestle has partnered with The Forest Trust to become more sustainable.

Let’s remember some of the important lessons from this situation:

  1. Social media amplifies consumers voices – whether their remarks are positive or negative, they get MUCH louder and they last a lot longer online.
  2. Social media can make anyone an activist – one of the best things about technology is that it makes thing easier. And that makes people more likely to participate. Remember back to the earthquake in Haiti, the Red Cross raised millions by letting people text donations and pay for it on their phone bill. But when you are the one (or the company) being protested against, it can swell the ranks of your enemies. How many of these people who were up in arms over Nestle’s use of palm oil would have taken up the cause if it weren’t online?
  3. How you respond is as important as the issue itself – Contrast this situation with the Dominos fiasco a few months back. While some people argue that 48 hours was too long to respond, the bulk of what has been written about the management of that crisis is positive. The situations aren’t exactly the same but in that case senior management got on top of the issue right away and got out in front of it. Here it seems as if Nestle put an intern in charge.

About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

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