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Archive for March, 2010


On Nestle

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Everyone who blogs about marketing and media should write about the Nestle issue. There can not be enough written about this. (Some good things here, here and here .)

Why?

Because its get to the root of social media and big business. The very value of social media. Nestle is getting hammered and guess what? They deserve it. Ya wanna know what else? They’ll be the better for the lickin’ they are taking.

Still one has to wonder how it is that a billion dollar conglomerate who sells fructose as baby formula figures its a good idea to go out into social media without hiring help. Cheese on a Ritz fellas, who walks out on stage in a stadium without practicing?

So there it is– we all owe a huge smattering of thanks to the corp comm geniuses at Nestle for doing the social media thing and showing everyone how not to do it.

Here’s what I learned:

If you are a gigantic food processing or agro-business –STFU. Seriously. You’re only asking for trouble. You want to defend high fructose corn syrup in moderation or the benefits of genetically modified grain? Go buy a congressman like the rest of your buds.

If you’re still not convinced that you are better staying out of the conversation, or somehow still feel the need to leverage this great new form of media, try fixing your Wikipedia page. See, not so easy is it? Once you master that community, you’re ready for twitter and a solid monitoring program. Got that box checked? Well then, by all means, go ahead and jump in people’s facebook streams. I love getting updates about sustainable palm oil refining next to updates from my sister-in-law. That’s sarcasm. Go slow and consider the community you are entering. Some places are best left unattended until you are ready.

I suspect Nestle would like to step away from Facebook, but of course, now its too late. Leaving would make them look weak and guilty. So now they must endure the slings and arrows of the great unwashed. Certainly Nestle has come to realize that no one can talk over an angry mob. Maybe now Nestle will listen.

Because that’s the thing: I’m not sure social media is so much about about letting go of your brand or even transparency. To me, it’s more about listening. Yes, listening effectively is often more expensive than running your yap. This is the trap of social media for so many businesses. They are so used to talking, and since that’s easier and less expensive than listening, “how hard can it be?” they ask themselves. Then they wind up blog fodder like Nestle.

Listening correctly, a business the size of Nestle can save millions of dollars in market research. By listening respectfully they could uncover the weaknesses in their oppositions’ arguments. If they listen deeply they might find a way to do well by doing good. It’s a myth that people hate big business. People hate dumb big businesses. Being dumb in social media is way more expensive than just being quiet.

In related news Ryan Seacrest learned the hard way about spoiler alerts on twitter