Should some brands stay out of social media?

The ongoing antics of Nestle as it continually trips itself up in all forms of social media (Facebook, viral Greenpeace videos) have led me to ask if some companies should just stay out altogether.

Even Satan or Lex Luthor would have a better time on social media than Nestle. There are legions of people wanting to embrace evil.

Nestle Killer-Asesino Facebook page, one of many opened in response to Nestle's social media attempts

But Nestle doesn’t even have them on side. People are not saying that they’re willing to accept a company that has substantial long-term crappy business practises – because Nestle doesn’t admit to them. And that’s saying something.

For a company that is top ten worldwide in almost everything – size, employees, number of countries it operates in, number of brands it holds… no other consumer goods company has as much worldwide impact as Nestle…. and no company can boast as much obvious distrust from vocal consumers who have long-held issues with the company, and now have a means to share them with a new generation, and in new regions.

What doesn’t Nestle get?

The problem for Nestle is not just at the ‘I don’t like the company/product’ level. The issues are not just opinion. If it were, then they could be dismissed by many as trivial, personal or simply without foundation.

Instead, social media offers more than just opinion sharing. It gives every person with a web connection access to hard factual information, statistics and documented history including legal processes. The information is as deep as the user wants to go, and it’s all just a click away. Companies can’t hide it. That’s the nature of the web.

Getting it right

Chiat/Day’s Pepsi Refresh Project understood that there is something that resonates between a brand and the consumer, and that connection reaches far beyond the product.

Instead of using social media to focus on products, use it to focus on global issues – issues you and other multi-nationals contribute to, profit from, and can make a difference in. Involve the social web in gaining insights into how to fix these problems. Work with people, not against them. People want you to succeed when you demonstrate a commitment to things that affect their lives, their world.

If you spend part of your exhorbitant ad spend on social media that demonstrates real involvement with the community rather than talking about your products, you’ll begin to build some social capital where you have none.

Frame the conversations – it gives you some control. But ensure you’re framing them in spaces you’re willing to go, and that people will support you in.

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