Anyone still doubting the power (and use) of social media need only look as far as Greenpeace’s latest campaign against Nestle using unsustainable palm oil in its products (namely Kit Kat) Victory: Nestle gives orang-utans a break.
Greenpeace’s aim was to alert people of Nestle’s links to deforestation in Indonesian rainforests and the destruction of orang-utan habitats, and ultimately to get Nestle to stop using products, or suppliers, associated with palm oil that is not sourced sustainably.
So began a campaign using social media. Greenpeace created a video that went viral on YouTube. In only 24 hours the campaign had gone global, to date achieving over 1 million views.
People around the world responded using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to let Nestle know, in no uncertain terms, how unhappy they were with the global food giant.
However, Nestle didn’t only get flak over palm oil, it also erred through its inappropriate use of social media (trying to take down posts and ‘talking down’ to visitors to its Facebook page). By not understanding the role of social media and the way people use it to interact with big corporations Nestle worsened its public perception rather than improving it. The outcome, two months after this social media campaign began, is that on 17 May Nestle announced it had taken certain measures to use ‘responsible sourcing guidelines’ for palm oil.
Another example of a large global company currently undergoing a social media pummeling is oil giant BP. People around the world are using social media to express their unhappiness with BP, which is in crisis management due to an unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Once again, using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, there is a global outcry around the world about the way BP has (or hasn’t) handled the crisis. You only need to look at BP’s facebook page to see that the company is not a favoured brand at the moment and has a lot of cleaning up to do (pardon the pun!).
Social media allows individuals to have a united voice in a very public arena, which companies can’t ignore if they want to maintain positive customer relations and share price.
There are some lessons to be learnt from these recent events, one of them being that social media is a very fast and effective way for the average ‘Joe’ to get their message across, and that for brands to remain relevant to their customers they must use social media honestly and appropriately.