Nestlé: Why a Facebook Fan Page Was Not a Good Idea

Yesterday morning, at the Intracom Conference in Quebec City, Jean-François Pitet presented the attendees a very dark picture of the last 10 years on the Internet. Pitet called his presentation “What lessons can we learn from our mistakes” but, other than talking about the Web’s big problems (spam, bad use of social media, etc.),  I felt he didn’t offer many suggestions to improve the Web going forward. I did find an interesting nugget of information when he talked about the Nestle/Kit-Kat debacle.  For those who are not familiar with the story that happened last month, Caroline McCarthy from CNET.com explains: “Environmental activist group Greenpeace has long been putting the pressure on Nestle to stop using palm oil, the production of which has been documented as a source of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and endangered species loss.” Greenpeace created an online video for their campaign but the debate quickly moved to Nestle’s Facebook fan page. McCarthy continues:

These days, just about every brand has a public forum in the form of a Facebook fan page, and Greenpeace supporters–whom the activist group had encouraged to change their Facebook profile photos to anti-Nestle slogans that often incorporated one or more of the company’s food logos–started posting to the Nestle fan page en masse. Nestle countered with a mild threat: “To repeat: 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.” A Nestle rep diving into the comments of the thread with responses like “Oh please…it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments” didn’t calm things down.

Sufficed to say, the situation quickly degenerated and turned into a PR nightmare for Nestlé.

Back at the conference, Pitet explained that the main problem is that Nestlé created a fan page for the corporate brand (Nestlé) while in fact they should have focused on product brands (Kit-Kat, Nescafé, etc.). In a consumer social site (Facebook), consumers should interact with consumer brands when the corporate brand is secondary. That makes sense and this tells me you need to think before creating a Facebook page for everything…

Following the presentation, Denis Boudreau, one of the attendees, suggested I read this ReadWriteWeb France article to learn more about the case. They suggest the following tips to avoid a similar debacle:

  1. Plan ahead of time for potential conflictual situations (any skeletons in the corporate closet?)
  2. Understand that you can’t control a Facebook fan page (you need to understand the specifics of the Facebook culture)
  3. Put in place an experienced social media team (don’t use the intern!)
  4. Prepare and simulate scenarios
  5. Write clear rules for your community managers and users
  6. The worst strategy is not being present
  7. When it happens, recognize the situation, offer a specific space to discuss it and open the dialogue
  8. Have an option to go 24/7 in case of crisis
  9. You will find all your enemies on the Internet

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