Last week, we entertained the idea of turning brands’ Facebook fan pages into customer service platforms via Get Satisfaction’s Social Engagement Hub, the new app that enables brands to integrate the entire customer support experience into their Facebook fan pages. The service’s integration with Facebook introduced interesting questions about the costs and benefits of using the platform to host conversations that can quickly turn ugly.
Well, judging from Nestle’s recent Facebook crisis, companies should be all the more aware of Facebook fans’ ability to turn on a dime and become outspoken critics, using the brand’s very own Facebook page as a soapbox for voicing their discontent.
Just ask Nestle. The company’s Facebook fan page has been overrun by critics in recent days, following Greenpeace’s accusation that Nestle uses palm oil sourced from deforested areas in Indonesia. The sustainability crisis spun out of control as people took to Facebook to condemn the company’s practices, make its fan page … well, anything but.
For its part, Nestle has retreated from the Facebook firestorm, choosing instead to address the issue with a formal statement on its Web site. It’s a defensive move that implies the complete absence of any social media crisis planning/escalation procedure. For Nestle, any reactionary planning will be too little, too late-the damage has already been done. How they choose to rebuild their Facebook presence in the wake in the crisis will be an interesting process to behold.
As for those brands that have yet to come under fire on their own Facebook domains, there is still time to develop a plan that can be deployed in the event of an unexpected blitzkrieg. A few essentials:
- Monitoring: Brands must appoint community managers to monitor and moderate the conversations taking place on Facebook. These individuals will be the first responders when an issue emerges, as they will be most familiar with the fan base-and vice versa.
- Rules of Engagement: Clear policies that outline the rules for participating on the fan page are essential. Companies should establish these up front, noting that inappropriate or inflammatory comments will be removed at the community manager’s discretion. This policy does NOT entitle brands to remove comments that are negative or critical-sorry, Nestle-but it does serve as a first line of defense for crises that may develop out of rumors or false information.
- Detailed Response Protocol: Brand managers should develop a crisis response protocol that outlines the basic steps to be taken the moment an issue emerges. These protocols should identify different degrees of issues-latent, emerging, critical, etc.-and assign corresponding actions for each. This allows teams to hit the ground running with a proactive response, rather than forcing them into a corner while their fans-turned-foes destroy the brand’s reputation on its own turf.
What advice would you give Nestle at this stage in the game? Do you think it will rebuild its Facebook community over time, or will it leave it to the proverbial wolves?
If you’re interested in learning more about proactive crisis response in the age of social media, tune in to dna13′s “Speed Kills” Webinar on March 24th, featuring Ann Aikin from the Centers for Disease Control.