Silent Whispers

Chasing Illusionary Butterflies!

Lessons from Disastrous Social Media Marketing of BP and Nestle

Posted by Mrityunjay on August 18, 2010

Businesses really need to be careful these days.  It is the era of social media and one minor mistake from corporate houses can land them in big trouble. If social media platforms can be powerful allies as we saw in case of P&G in the previous post, it can also throw businesses down the drain or can set back by few billion bucks along with loss of consumer confidence. Coporate beware!

The case of P&G was a wonderful demonstration of how to leverage the new age advertising mediums whereas Nestle and BP did everything to make a royal mess of the faculties. Poor handling of social media marketing can destroy the reputation of the firms. Though, we have no doubt over capabilities of Nestle and BP to shake off the dust and start shining again but it will be a long and painful process which could have been avoided if they had paid more attention to their social media marketing strategies.

The problems of Nestle started over their policies of buying palm oil. In came, Greenpeace in the picture and accusations of supporting deforestation and putting endangered species in risk were levied on Nestle. To further its campaign, Greenpeace posted a video on YouTube which has received more than 3,50,000 page views till the date.

This was just the beginning though. Soon, Nestle moved to have the video removed which naturally fuelled the fire. The next target was Nestle’s Facebook pages. And that’s where Nestle lost the plot. Going by its reaction to the flood of negative publicity, it was clear that company was ill prepared to handle such social media disaster.  And that is not a solitary exception. It is in fact, a norm and many top companies are still not adept at handling unexpected major crises. Call it lack of disaster management or whatever you feel but this incident had a major bearing on Nestlé’s quarterly results and investor’s confidence.

It was rather unexpected and very silly of Nestle’s Facebook page to go offensive. Its response to the users was totally antagonistic and sarcastic. It was total PR disaster. Check out this image.

British petroleum (BP) was another poor example of below par social media strategy. The oil spill incident badly tarnished its image. It cost the company its CEO, billions of losses, political and environmental backlashes and erosion in consumers’ confidence. It will take BP years to offset the losses but one fact is certain; company was wayward in its handling of the public reactions on social media sites.

When people started to attack BP through Tweets and Facebook pages, BP kept mum for a long time. Its Twitter ID@BP_America was found wanting in communication. There was no response, tweet and retweet. Basically, it was one way communication and that was the last thing BP was supposed to do at that point of time. In short, both Nestle and BP had a very serious social media meltdown.

So what are the lessons for other companies who have yet to encounter such problems? Other firms should ideally make a proper social media strategy with primary focus on crisis management.

  • Both companies failed to show honesty, transparency and openness. They tried to protect their reputation using sarcastic, aggressive tone and barrage of lies. Instead of facing the public in a nice and polite way, they took the other way round. The crisis was further accentuated because of the way it was handled.

  • Both companies lacked proper social media strategy. They definitely could have done better with their presence in social media sites like YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter. In the era of tweets, it is really foolish to be caught off-guard. Companies need to be proactive and should interact with consumers.

  • There is no point running away from criticism. It always pays to engage and interact with the users in a transparent way. It helps in building confidence and trust among customers and that’s the only things a company needs during the time of disaster.

  • Companies should never respond out of panic and neither should they become dismissive and defensive. There should a proper team in place taking care of all the fan page and comments.

Companies would do well to formulate online reputation management. Social media is here to stay and businesses should be prepared to handle any future crises.

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5 Responses to “Lessons from Disastrous Social Media Marketing of BP and Nestle”

  1. Mabel said

    Gone are the days of “strictly business” n “being tight-lipped” and “high n mighty”. Social networks are changing each n every aspect of life, be it personal or business. Use them cleverly, stay happy! Nice write-up, Jay! Your articles never bore, variety for one reason n ease of understanding for other 🙂

  2. Nic Wirtz said

    Missed example – BP’s fake PR Twitter account became its true voice because BP did so little social media wise.

  3. Vikalp said

    WOW!! now i can see a true analytical person in you… both the posts (Old Spice and BP/Nestle)are really analytical. Specially loved the screen shots of FB and twitter. You have brought a fresh and trendy topic and did justice with your write up. Expecting more such analytical(am i using this word repeatedly?) posts from you.

  4. Kanupriya said

    Good one, BP can actually become a case study for what not to do in online reputation management 🙂

  5. M.Waqas said

    Nice Thankyou….

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