Nestle’s social media meltdown began with a Greenpeace campaign that accused Nestle of supporting deforestation by purchasing palm-oil from companies that destroy rain forests in Indonesia. Although they had the right idea when they launched their Facebook page to facilitate communication with customers, they forgot that having a Facebook in general means nothing if they don’t use it to interact positively, openly and appropriately with customers in a timely manner. Greenpeace’s campaign attacked from multiple sides, including comments on Facebook and a video on YouTube connecting the death of Orangutans to eating Kit Kats.

Where did Nestle go wrong? In their response. As Chris Kieff explains in his Nestle case study, Nestle tried to have the video removed due to copyright infringement, which led to angry Greenpeace members and followers who organized to begin commenting on Nestle’s Facebook page. Then, the mass protest began. Now people were not only complaining about the palm-oil, but about pulling the Greenpeace video as well. Some protesters even began to use altered versions of Nestle’s logo as their Facebook image.

This is where Nestle could have stepped in and responded quickly and transparently, but chose not to. They deleted many of the negative comments, and even deleted other comments simply because the commenter used an altered version of their brand image. Maybe an even worse decision, as Sarah Hartshorn identifies as the fifth social media mistake, was allowing an inexperienced professional to respond to those negative comments which hadn’t been deleted. The Nestle representative responded in a rude and unprofessional manner, furthering Greenpeace and followers’ negative opinion of Nestle due to its lack of concern with the whole issue.

Even though Nestle finally responded to Greenpeace, replaced the Indonesian company and was moving toward the elimination of palm-oil in its products, its reputation has not completely recovered.

What Did We Learn Nestle?

Nestle could have turned this into a positive PR move if it had responded to Greenpeace in the beginning and ended its relationship with the rainforest-destroying company. Instead, it kept quiet. Nestle thought silence was a protection, and realized, rather, that silence can speak louder than words. For now, Nestle will spend its time recovering and hopefully thinking up a new and respectful approach to engage with their customers online … for chocolate’s sake.