For mommybloggers at Nestle, the medium was the message

If you are unfamiliar with the Nestle Family incident on social media last year, there are myriad blog posts about it, as well as a single piece of mainstream traditional media coverage.

In a snapshot, Nestle brought a number of bloggers to the company’s headquarters in California from September 30-October 1, 2009, showing them the full range of its products, and using them as a focus group for the Nestle Family initiative. The bloggers began tweeting pro-Nestle messages that were not received well by some in the Twitter community. They tweeted back. Then ensued what has been called a “twitstorm”, as well as a plethora of blog posts that led to further debate and discussion.

An introduction to the research

Attendee bloggers were made aware of the complete range of Nestle-owned products, as were those at home.

I’ve begun reviewing the results of the survey I undertook during the twitstorm. Please Note: The purpose of this survey and my thesis is to investigate why people were so passionately reacting to each other, rather than to reignite debate. While I hold my own views, my thesis is focusing on the mommyblogger community, authority and political economy. I endeavour to treat all parties with respect at all times. To date, I believe this has been achieved.

Learning about our Twitter community

Importantly, most people completed the survey through the height of the twitstorm and I believe this led to their true feelings being expressed, rather than the more ‘politically correct’ responses you’d expect if they were reflecting on the storm. When asked what you learned about your Twitter community, this was the response:

I learned I like some of the people I follow even more 46 74%
I learned I do not like some of the people I follow 30 48%
I learned about etiquette on twitter 21 34%
I did not learn anything about other twitterers 7 11%

As you can see, most people affirmed their positive beliefs about their stream, but almost half of the respondents decided they did not actually like some of the people they followed. (We can probably assume they did like them before this.)

Additionally, when asked if they believed the Nestle event was a good thing for the attending bloggers to be a part of, this was the response:

I don’t know 24 39%
No 20 32%
Yes 15 24%
It made no difference 3 5%

These statistics indicate that 71%, or nearly three quarters, of respondents were either unsure or negative in their opinion of the value of the event for the bloggers who attended. When only one quarter of respondents thought attending the Nestle event was a good idea, red flags are raised for the community as well as Nestle.

Some commentary in the long form response boxes

On the #NestleFamily hashtag:

“I was disgusted to see the activists invading (use of the hashtag)”

“It was interesting to watch (the hashtag) be used by and for two completely opposing groups/ideas.”

And about the attendees:

“The event underscored the problem bloggers have in accepting corporate junkets that come with a PR hashtag, in that their ethics in attending and their PR activities on Twitter were publically challenged.”

“When blogger credibility is based on authenticity and voice, what happens to both when negative information about a corporation or brand is just a few links away and yet that information isn’t included in a blogger’s report?”

And finally, for this very short piece of introduction, I believe this respondent captured the essence of the questions that arise out of this event, and they are ones I will be seeking some indications of answers to as I progress in this research:

“There are the issues about what, exactly, are bloggers? Are they journalists or brand enthusiasts or community leaders or experts or what? Can you attend an event like this without having been said to represent the brand? And then there are the issues surrounding social media…is it rude to challenge someone’s public statements? Is it against etiquette to “crash” a hashtag? Why is a multi-billion dollar brand hosting a microsite with a twitter feed for an event without a single employee versed in Twitter?”

Thank you to everyone who responded to the survey. I am looking forward to outlining more of the responses in some further posts. If you would like to undergo a depth interview with me over the next month or so, please let me know. Also feel free to leave comments below. For the purposes of this research, anonymity is respected. 🙂

One comment

  • Love this post & looking forward to reading more! On the etiquette of crashing hashtags, I think that it has the potential to be in poor taste. However when it’s a matter of corporate suits from a ruthless sociopathic organisation (oops, did I let my bias show slightly?) trying to con mums and dads, crashing a hashtag is social justice IMO

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