The true price of social media

So everyone knows by now that social media is kind of a big deal. And most brands have grudgingly started to engage in one way or other – some more successfully than others. The issue now then is that many brands are just paying lip service to it.

Sceptics take note though… Last week, Nestle discovered exactly how much damage can be inflicted on a global brand that fails to have a watertight social media strategy, when they became the unwilling target of a viral and social media campaign launched by Greenpeace.

The campaign was designed to undermine Nestle’s Fairtrade claims by drawing attention to its use of palm oil sourced from Sinar Mas – an Indonesian company accused of illegal deforestation. 

It all started with a viral spoof of Nestle’s famous ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’ ad, in which an office worker was seen to bite into an Orang-utan’s finger, instead of a chocolate wafer finger…. Within hours however, Greenpeace and anti-Nestle activists has turned the viral into a fully-fledged social media attack on the brand, with people using Twitter and Facebook to openly criticise the confectionary giant and call for a boycott on its products.

So far then, all pretty standard techniques for social media campaigning… The point at which it became a social media crisis for Nestle however, was when the brand tried to shut down social media by either deleting posts from its Twitter and Facebook pages, with one company response reading: “We welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic – they will be deleted.” A later comment from the company then read: “Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go. Thanks for the comments.”

The company’s poor attempts to manage the situation through social media resulted in a massive drop in the price of Nestle shares just 24 hours after the campaign broke, as noted on the Viral Agency blog. Coincidence? Perhaps… but almost certainly a contributing factor.

The lesson from this then is that NO brand can afford to just pay lip service to social media. Social media experts now need to form a pivotal member of any communications team.  Undervalue the impact that the medium can have at your peril.