A curse on your pages: Facebook madness from Nestle and Beneful

Beneful, a Nestle subsidary which manufactures dog food, is in trouble:

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If you’re making dog food, and people start saying that your product is killing their dogs then that’s about as bad as it gets.

You may remember that Nestle provided social media consultants with one of the best, and most public examples about how to mis-manage a Facebook page with the palm oil debacle – here’s one of many blog posts which covered this. One of the key problems with this was censorship, and the deletion of posts.

How to avoid treading this road again? Address the situation head on, speak to the customers, try and gauge the scale of the problem maybe? Nope. Instead, in the face of a growing storm Beneful posts things like the following:

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or:

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While, at the same time, their Facebook page is starting to fill up with things like:

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Which gets a response something like this:

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It seems like Beneful are going down the same road which Nestle trod a few years ago – threaten your page fans with deletion and remain anonymous as possible; further, don’t address the issue directly.

And here’s why this is, generally, a bad move:

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Cultivating a following of ‘influencers’ works both ways – have a good product, be respectful and people will love you for it. Start disrespecting your followers, particularly by censoring posts, and you’ve not only set your Facebook page on fire, but are merrily throwing petrol onto the flames.

And here’s the impact on existing customers:

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It’s easy to criticise, but here some things I would do in this situation:

– Stop being so goddamn anonymous; use your first name when you moderate or comment; try and give people a name to which they can talk to. Anonymity makes it much easier to be offensive, and get treated the same.

– Use Facebook to acknowledge the current situation; for every hater, there’s a bunch of people who, for the time being, think your brand’s okay. Directly acknowledging the problem, sharing the facts and describing the action you are taking is the mature thing to do. Posts about skyping dogs, in the face of news articles about less than healthy hounds make it look like you’re ducking the issue. Regardless of whether the product is fine, or not, you need to be proactive with the facts – even if it is bad news. Who else can help?- can the FDA support your claims, for example, that everything is okay?

Nestle’s Digital Acceleration Team became a bit of a big deal a while ago – so why does this feel like familiar territory for Nestle?

Update: Beneful are clearly using copy and paste – they seem to spend more time informing people they are removing their posts that actually doing anything meaningful. Community management, this is not.

Thanks to the awesome Corporate Bollocks Facebook page for tipping me off about Beneful.