Magazine article CRM Magazine

Crashing the Community: Nestle Feels the Crunch When Its Own Social Network Turns from Semi-Sweet to Dark

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Crashing the Community: Nestle Feels the Crunch When Its Own Social Network Turns from Semi-Sweet to Dark

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

According to a study conducted by social media management firm Vitrue, organizations see an average value of approximately $3.60 for each "fan" they have on Facebook. A paltry sum? Well, if you multiply that by a few hundred thousand fans, community-based damage to your brand's reputation will make retaining (or worse, reacquiring) the fans in that community quite costly.

Manufacturing giant Nestle may have learned that lesson in the wake of an episode on its branded Facebook fan page in March. The kerfuffle began when a Nestle "fan"--actually a Nestle critic who had joined the open community--used a pejoratively modified version of the brand's logo (see image, left) as her Facebook photo, and others did likewise. Nestle's Facebook community manager responded by deleting some comments, warning members not to run afoul of trademark laws. Reactions were swift, and reached far beyond Facebook: Fans and "fake fans" alike began posting (and blogging elsewhere) to criticize Nestle for not listening, for not grasping social media, and for its "condescending attitude."

"Who cares about a logo," one fan wrote. "[D]o you not have bigger things to be concerned about?????" The "bigger things" involved the palm oil used in some of Nestle's products, as well as the company's impact on rainforests. Enter Greenpeace and a new level of backlash. Activists joined the thread, amplifying the indictment of the company's practices--and the fan page quickly spun out of control.

Nestle, for its part, discovered that social media isn't easy, issuing a status-update mea culpa: "[W]e're learning as we go." Even though the company said it had already set a date to cut ties with the palmoil supplier in question, the comments and verbal assaults kept coming. "The difficulty with social media is to show we are listening (which we obviously are) while not getting involved in a shouting match," said Nina Backes, a Nestle corporate media relations spokeswoman, via email. "We have temporarily withdrawn from our Facebook page while continuing to engage with stakeholders in other channels on what we are doing around sustainable palm oil."

In the Facebook community, it's difficult to know at a glance whether a negative post is from a longtime member of a fan page or another Facebook member jumping on the brand-bashing bandwagon. …

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