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The Nestlé Facebook lesson: When being attacked, show that you're listening -- but don't sass back

Nestle If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

That's the lesson a Nestlé social media administrator learned the hard way last week, after getting snippy with Greenpeace protesters who were repeatedly attacking the company's Facebook page.

Here's the breakdown: Greenpeace is protesting Nestlé's use of palm oil, an ingredient used in many of its products, saying it hurts the rainforests when not gathered in an environmentally sensitive way.

Protesters soon began to fill Nestlé's Facebook fan page with comments -- and many of those protesters changed their personal profile photos to be negatively altered logos, like changing KitKat to Killer and Nestlé to Nosale.

Nestlé then made a status update saying that they welcome the comments, but request that people not post with altered images of the Nestlé logos. It said any comments made by users with altered logos would be deleted.

But as the protesters cried that Nestlé doesn't support freedom of speech and they were "Big Brotherish,'' the Nestlé voice showed its annoyance, saying, "Oh please, it's not like we're censoring everything to allow only positive comments.''

Social media voices need to have personality to engage with users -- but NOT in this situation. When being attacked, show that you're listening and keep it professional. But don't sass back. Nestlé's Facebook administrator made the mistake of showing snark at multiple times, and now social media blogs are buzzing about how Nestlé handled it wrong.

Nestlé hasn't responded to our request for a comment. On Friday afternoon, the Nestlé Facebook administrator wrote that deleting comments with altered logos "was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologize. And for being rude. We've stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude."

The Nestlé page has also posted statements about the company's plan to use sustainable palm oil by 2015.

Greenpeace isn't just targeting Nestlé. They also are going after Dove. But businesses can learn a lesson from Dove's Facebook Page. When a user first goes to the page, they don't see a massive list of Wall posts from various users. They are defaulted to a "Home Page'' graphic tab.

On that screen, Dove, in a calm, professional manner, makes it clear that this is a place for fans of Dove -- but it also lets visitors know it has the right to remove comments on anyone being offensive or violating intellectual property rights.

The point is the tone. Companies use social media to present a voice. When people are screaming at you, it's best not to scream back.

As Nestlé sits by for days and lets negative comments take over its Facebook page, it's turning into quite the social media mess. If you were Nestlé, how would you use social media to respond?

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The tone is indeed very important. Also PR online is not very different from PR offline and must be handled by a professional. The Nestle rep sounded anything BUT professional.

Both online and offline, it is important to understand the motivations and priorities of everyone who is impacted by your company, including people and groups who disagree with you.

Social media allows companies the opportunity to build relationships by interacting directly with their customers and employees. It also allows activists, dissatisfied customers, and disgruntled employees the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions. Because of social media, both the happy and the unhappy comments are available for everyone to see.

Whether it is from organized groups or active individuals, companies can choose to listen and respond - not just by choosing the right words but also by taking the right actions.

Another good case study is Domino's Pizza. They did a great job listening to embracing negative feedback from customers on social media and using it to transform not only how they market their products, but the products themselves. (www.pizzaturnaround.com).

Angie Moncada
www.addventures.com

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