Late last week, Greenpeace activists "brandjacked" Nestle's Facebook Fan page in an effort to pressure Nestle to stop sourcing palm oil -- an ingredient in many of their food products -- from producers who, they allege, are contributing to rainforest deforestation.
Jeremiah Owyang at Altimeter Group has been on top of this since it began a few days ago. You can read his summary and recommendations, and catch up on some of the notable news stories, on his Web Strategy blog.
It remains to be seen what Nestle will do with this crisis; after a brief period of defensiveness, they seem to have retreated, leaving the Facebook page more or less unattended. They haven't made a peep on their Twitter page since Friday, when they posted a link to a statement on their palm oil policies. And their last press release, from March 8, announced that they've launched a Jenny Craig program in France.
So I put myself in the shoes of Nestle's executive board. They are based in Vevey, Switzerland, far removed from the gravitational force of Silicon Valley. They're going to need to understand the extent of the damage and what can and should be done.
It's big. Really big.
Mentions of the Nestle brand among digital media--blogs (and comments), forums (and comments), news stories, Twitter, photo and video sites--is up 22 percent this week, compared to the previous two weeks. When you look at the conversation related to the Greenpeace incident, however, the conversation spikes to 932 percent.
It's hijacked their brand conversations.
So what's the call to action? And if I were an executive at any other company -- whether or not they are engaging via social media -- I would listen to Jeremiah's advice and make a community strategy and crisis response plan one of my top priorities for the remainder of the year. As Erin says, "The voice of the customer is only going to get louder." Thanks to Erin and Scout Labs for the data and insight.
Thirty-seven percent of the online conversation about Nestle this week is specifically about the Greenpeace action. That's more than a third of the total conversation. If I were Greenpeace, or any other activist group, I'd be pretty impressed with myself right about now.
The tone of the conversation about Nestle and Greenpeace is overwhelmingly negative.
Think back to the Toyota "sudden acceleration" crisis of the past several months. Several people have made the case that the backlash against Toyota brought out a passionate majority of loyalists, so the brand wasn't that badly affected. But the numbers here tell a different story. The vast majority of people talking about this issue are speaking negatively about Nestle.
But wait -- there's hope.
This is the part where we need to put it all in perspective. How much has the Greenpeace/deforestation issue really damaged the Nestle brand? If you look at overall sentiment about Nestle, even within the past week, the conversation is trending positive. Lead topics include comments about recipes, products, and their business ethics in the Phillippines. Here's a look at the data. [It's important to mention that algorithmic sentiment analysis usually only agrees about 75% with human analysis, and humans also tend to disagree a lot. So actual mileage may vary].
Even though Nestle seems to be weathering the storm so far -- consider its size and history, after all -- the intensity and volume of conversation is too big to ignore. If I were Nestle, I'd be watching these trends minutely over the next several weeks and months, and finding places to engage with the community to turn this into a dialogue rather than a pile-on.
It's hijacked their brand conversations.
So what's the call to action?
And if I were an executive at any other company -- whether or not they are engaging via social media -- I would listen to Jeremiah's advice and make a community strategy and crisis response plan one of my top priorities for the remainder of the year.
As Erin says, "The voice of the customer is only going to get louder."
Thanks to Erin and Scout Labs for the data and insight.