As hard as it is to build a great reputation, it can easily and quickly be destroyed online. Nestle, one of the food giants, have long been criticised over their poor environmental practices over deforestation and palm oil and it’s “unethical use and promotion of formula feed for babies in third world countries.” Nestle has a Facebook page which became the target of many unhappy people wishing to boycott Nestle over these practices. Unfortunately, the administrators of the Facebook page took a hostile approach to the comments made on Twitter and Facebook and responded on Facebook accordingly.
With Facebook numbers currently at 400 million users, and the concept of friends telling friends, this PR disaster has amplified incredibly quickly. It no longer takes years to reach millions of users, it now takes minutes. With the comments from Nestle representatives, deleting critical posts and complaining about use of their altered logo, the situation quickly appeared to turn into something unredeemable with hundreds of negative comments cascading down the Facebook page and blogs commenting on the PR disaster. This is not the first time that Nestle has been in the news, Wikipedia has examples of previous issues from Nestle. The amazing thing here is that the use of social media has accelerated the runaway propagation of information into almost meltdown proportions. Something that may do huge damage to Nestles reputation due to their attitude on Facebook alone.
A simple YouTube video can also trigger a similar propagation explosion. In early 2008 Dave Carroll a musician in a band, flew from Nova Scotia to Nebraska via Chicago on United Airlines and his guitar got broken en route. One of his band mates saw the baggage handlers heaving round the guitars with “wanton disregard”.
Dave complained to the flight attendants but his comments were met with indifference and on arriving at his destination to play the event, his guitar was broken. He played at his gig, and complained to the airline upon his return and for several weeks afterwards. He spent $1200 repairing the guitar and claimed compensation, but unfortunately this claim was denied by the airline because he didn’t complain “in the right place or at the right time” Dave, told United Airlines that he was going to write a song and post it on youTube, but the company ignored his threat.
The ‘United breaks guitars’ video went viral very quickly, and with over 8 million views. It managed to hit the spot though, with United Airlines responding to the video and putting things it right for him. United showed that by responding to the social media storm – eventually – in a positive way, went some way to alleviating the poor impressions created by the poor service in the first place.
Certainly something to think about if you’re building your social media brand and want to avoid the pitfalls of not listening to your audience – or your customers 🙂