Attack of the Disgruntled Fans

Posted on March 22, 2010

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Many big brands are still hesitant to jump into the social media pool for fear of an attack of disgruntled fans. Now, they have more ammo, thanks to Nestle. The food giant has been under pressure from environmentalists and fell prey to even more of a backlash when the operator of Nestle’s Facebook page poorly handled fan criticism by taking a hostile approach to the chatter.

According to CNET, the fire began when Greenpeace uncovered Nestle’s use of palm oil, the production of which has contributed to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and the loss of endangered species. The attack escalated with the release of a provocative Web video posing Nestle as a threat to orangutans which Nestle lobbied to remove, citing a copyright complaint. Furthermore, activists encouraged Facebook fans to change their photos by replacing them with anti-Nestle slogans and logos. Nestle retaliated by threatening to delete posts that used altered versions of the logo as a profile picture.

Although Nestle has intellectual property rights when it comes to its logo, the company’s actions seem to stifle criticisms by citing copyright and trademark while the page administrators comments fuel the fire. For instance as CNET notes, the rep responded to the thread whining “Oh, please… it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments.” Reactions ranged from harsh criticisms of the rep and the brand to lighter remarks from fans encouraging Nestle to remove the oil. Even today, despite the Nestle rep apologizing for censoring and being rude, the backlash continues.

It’s unfortunate for Nestle that the brand became an example of a social media/PR don’t, as this is the first massive social storm on a Facebook fan page. But, it also provides an opportunity for other brands to learn from this mistake and be sure seasoned, ethical professionals who are managing their online reputation and are ready to handle a crisis. Crowds are fickle, but this is the beauty of social media. Consumers have the power to help brands make bigger and better products. The trick is listening well and remembering the number one rule in customer service: the customer is always right!

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Posted in: social media