How not to do Social Media – Orangutans 1-0 Nestle.

23 03 2010

The focus of this blog is to report on how technology is hopefully assisting to improve our lives in work and as we play – or is it? News this week has highlighted how our wonderful information highway, the internet, and the huge growth in social media needs careful management by corporations. Every corporation has been jumping on the bandwagon to open their own “FaceBook fan page” without, in same cases, not setting up clear policies of roles, rules, response guidelines, escalation policy etc. It appears that the role of setting up social media in many corporations is handed out to junior level staff, as after all, they are the Gen Y who “understand social media”…

Latest victim of the “how not to do social media” is Nestle. In case you missed it FaceBook’s Nestle Fan page has been swamped by critics voicing concern over palm oil use, deforestation, orang utan’s lost habitat etc. Nestles response was a lesson in poor social media relations. The social attack was most likely kick-started by via a Greenpeace campaign that highlighted Nestle’s use of palm oil in its chocolate products. Nevertheless, some fans on the Nestle site responded by editing the Nestle logo for their own identity. Rather than turning this into a positive, and perhaps responding by quickly staging a competition for the most creative edited logo, they responded aggressively, defensively and rudely. The Nestle response then fuelled pages of disgruntled “fan” comments.

Clearly Nestle have shot themselves in the foot. On all points they should never have embarked on a social media program without fully training staff on how to monitor, respond etc. Corporations are jumping into this arena without clearly thought out strategies on management nor recognizing that they must accept good and bad comments…

Clearly the quick fire response gave the corporation no time to consider how best to manage. A few hours of research could have informed this person on some alternative responses. Turning a negative into a positive would have been by far the best approach.

Every Nestle executive should be aware about the growing world concern over the consumption of Palm Oil. Acres of rainforest are being lost each day, as companies, cut, slash and burn to make way for more palm oil production. This is causing a huge environmental issue in Borneo/Indonesia where it is not only changing their climate but resulting in the lose of this unique habitat for orang utans and other rare species (and people who live in these forests). Orangutans and other animals/plants are thus facing extinction – in Sumatra it could be as soon as 2012-2015. A positive approach – such as other food manufacturers are choosing – is as follows.

To stop buying palm oil and using alternatives – YES, it makes the product more expensive – consumers need to understand that. But if the majority of consumers are asking a food manufacturer to change their ingredients, it is a point of consideration which could be turned into a big positive for Nestle.

Another approach, as is being led in the UK, is buying palm oil only from sustainable palm oil
corporations (example: Sainsbury’s). Palm Oil farms exist, so why not encourage those corporations to continue to grow on the SAME land and not go for the cheaper, easier option of forever using virgin land… In Australia a huge majority of school kids and parents lobbied their favourite food manufacturers to change their purchasing of palm oil. The companies listened (Nestle take note) and responded positively – a win win situation for all.

This will surely become one of the main “how not to do social media” case studies for years to come – the orangutans plight may yet still win through.

p.s Nestle have since made a public statement confirming that they are “taking all feasible steps to impact our suppliers to assure that we don’t buy palm oil which contributes to deforestation.” They furthermore add they will be buying from certified sustainable palm oil producers – good news??? Yes and no. They commit to do this by 2015 – it may be too late for the Sumatra orangutans who face extinction around that time.




9 responses

23 03 2010
23 03 2010

A new world? Social media protest against Nestle may have longstanding ramifications.
Protest could change the palm oil industry and wake the world up to the power of ‘social media’.

Information packed article on this hot topic.

23 03 2010

More background to Greenpeace’s recent action.

The world’s largest user of palm oil, Unilever, has suspended its $32.6 million contract with the Indonesian group Sinar Mas after an independent audit proved that Sinar Mas is involved in the destruction of rainforest, reports Reuters. The audit was conducted early this year after a report by Greenpeace alleged that Sinar Mas was engaged in deforestation and the draining of peatlands, both of which release significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Deforestation across Indonesia and Malaysia, in part for oil palm plantations, has also added pressure on many many endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.

24 03 2010

Received via email:
I’m sure Nestle staff were aware of the
controversy with Palm oil…and chose to ignore it so they could pad their
pockets further. We avoid palm oil for health reasons…one of the worst
artery-cloggers around. In the last couple of years, I have stopped buying
products which list it as an ingredient altogether because of forest
concerns. The use in cafeteria or fast-food joints is a more pressing issue,
as very slow progress is being made with disclosure on labelling/menus.


24 03 2010

Received via email:
wow…i had no idea what was going on. And, Palm oil is terrible for you – it shouldn’t even be in the food we eat.

thanks for posting this.


25 03 2010
Sophia Fantis

Hello Sandra,
Firt I would like to thank you for commenting on my discussion in Linked In regarding my blog post on Nestle.
Interesting blog post you have made. I agree with the fact that because the younger generation grew with the expansion of social networks, organisations feel that the younger generation is more fit for this position. However, it does not necessarily mean that they are good at monitoring and responding in an appropriate manner when the reputation of the organisation is critical on social networks.

It is important to remember that organisations on social networks can make or break their reputation very easily, and nowadays word of mouth can spread immensley, throughout the world in matter of minutes, and even seconds.

Hopefully Nestle will be an example to other organisations out there promoting themselves.

Sophia Fantis

10 04 2010

Best article i read so far…

30 08 2010

Thank you – glad you enjoyed.

2 01 2011
2010 blog review « My Global Event Reports

[…] The busiest day of the year was March 23rd with 111 views. The most popular post that day was How not to do Social Media – Orangutans 1-0 Nestle.. […]

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