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Nestle, Palm Oil and Social Media, Oh My!

By now it’s no secret Nestle is having some issues with their social media, one of the most talked about is their Fan Page fiasco. Greenpeace began the process with a report on Sinar Mas (whom Nestle used) harvesting palm oil, which is having a direct impact on the rainforest and orangutan populations. In March of this year, Greenpeace released a video depicting a man “taking a break” by biting into an orangutan’s finger (the video might be squeamish to some).

Nestle promptly had it removed from YouTube, but it didn’t stop Greenpeace from posting it on Vimeo where it went viral. From there Greenpeace supporters flooded Nestle’s Fan Page and well, here we are today. Recently the dust is starting to settle, a little anyway, but there is still a lot to learn from what’s happened. I had the opportunity to talk with Marketing Pilgrim’s Frank Reed, about a few things to take away from what’s happened and how to prevent bad PR getting the best of you online.

How did Nestle ruin their online reputation? Were they even ruined?

In this day and age I wonder if it is possible to totally ruin your online reputation. People have short memories and are generally forgiving. In the case of Nestle there will be many who learn of Nestle’s efforts to make the palm oil situation right but the apparent unwillingness of many of the social media “protesters” to let them tell their story could actually end up working in Nestle’s favor.

What could Nestle have avoided and did any warning signs appear before hand that could have alerted them to remain cautious?

Well, if Nestle was aware of what their supplier was doing then they certainly were moving forward at their own risk. It would have made a great story for Nestle if they had identified the issue, ended the relationship then told their story. Whenever it looks like you have been “found out” there will be a price to pay in the online space.

When are some constructive ways to respond to negative comments?

Stay on message and don’t truly engage. Many negative commenters are looking for a fight. Stay on message. Keep telling the message that is moving toward a resolution and don’t “take the bait” to get into a shouting match. You’ll lose.

Should people respond to every negative comment they receive be it on Facebook or other outlet? And if a negative comment is received should the comments be deleted?

You should never delete negative comments unless they are truly defamatory to you or another or are obscene. Hopefully, you have put a clear policy together and made it available to participants as to what would cause a comment to be removed. If not you will look suspicious in removing anything from a platform that is intended to be open and conversational. Nestle did say that any pictures of their doctored logo would be removed.

As for every negative comment being handled? Probably good to acknowledge the comments though and ask if they are willing to engage offline. If it starts to look like a “flame-fest” it is good to bow out gracefully and call for reasonable discourse. You are the site / brand owner after all and it is your turf so you can make the rules. Most people will see a reasonable attempt to handle an unreasonable person enough effort to seem genuine.

Would you advise a dose of ‘reverse SEO’ for the negative comments?

Reverse SEO can have a negative connotation especially if your problems and the responses from your audience re-warranted. What companies should be doing, however, is creating as many different outlets of information for the engines to “feed on” about the brand thus making it less likely for other results to float near the top. Google has a commitment to balanced results though so you better make your alternative offerings strong.

Is it too late for Nestle? Should they just start over from scratch?

It looks like their Facebook page is wrecked for now but this furor should die down especially if they have attended to the issue completely. The trouble with their Facebook page is that it has become a place where others are grousing about issues that aren’t even related to Nestle thus possibly killing any chance for that particular iteration of their Facebook presence to recover. They should consider a “do over” on that one area but once again this tactic will have its supporters and detractors as well.

What are your top 5 things people/businesses can do to avoid having their reputation damaged online?

1. Keep their noses clean. Do good business and problems will be few.

2. Handle yourself professionally. No matter how bad the attack it should never warrant you dropping to the attacker’s level. It cheapens your image.

3. Provide many options for the engines with a variety of mediums like YouTube, blogs, alternate sites for specific data.

4. Be transparent. Admitting an issue will do much more good than harm. Covering it up and getting defensive though? Bad move.

5.Take the action that allows you to sleep at the end of the day knowing you did the best you could to be open, honest, transparent and available. Each situation will define these actions differently but work the moral compass angle.

Frank Reed is the owner of FT Internet Marketing, Inc ( that provides Internet marketing, social media, online reputation and copywriting services to the SME (small to medium enterprise) market. Frank is a daily contributor to Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim and writes weekly for Mike Moran’s Biznology Blog. He does other stuff too so give him a call.

Three days after this interview Nestle has posted an open letter to Greenpeace. It seems they are starting to move, or appear to, in the right direction. In addition Nestle has also created a second Fan Page, which seems to be geared more towards the United States audience in order to move away from the mess on their original page. And a third Fan Page which seems to be focusing more on their care to the community and environment. I’d like to ask you the reader, your thoughts on the new release from Nestle and what do you think these new Fan Pages will do for them?

Category Social Media
Joshua Titsworth Digital Marketing Specialist at Vizion Interactive

Joshua Titsworth is passionate about all things Internet and technology related. When he isn’t online tweeting or blogging, he can be found tracking ...

Nestle, Palm Oil and Social Media, Oh My!

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