learning as you go

I would venture to say there are very few people who would skydive, ride a bull, wrestle alligators, or climb one of the Seven Summits without experience or at least after watching a very good orientation video.

And yet companies are rolling up their pants legs and wading out into the shark-infested waters of social media without a clue. They’re letting the interns and other untrained personnel control the messaging to some of their most important contacts and setting up a social media disaster.

Social media is currently biting Nestle on the Nestle facebook page.

Protesters are taking to the Nestle page to voice opposition about their alleged use of palm oil from deforested areas in Indonesia. That’s trouble, but a prudent social media manager could handle it (like the way Southwest handled the Kevin Smith incident). Instead, the admin(s) of the Nestle page went on the offensive responding to fans in a derisive and aggressive tone. This is not breaking a social media rule. It’s destruction of basic PR 101. The company should never argue with someone in public (and for all practical purposes, it was the COMPANY not the admin making the comments.)

Overall, this is a great look at how companies should think about their online reputation management mechanics and the need to plan for an online crisis response in the same way you’d plan for a traditional crisis.

My favorite thing about the Nestle incident is that on Friday the admin(s) posted

“Social media: as you can see we’re learning as we go. Thanks for the comments.”

This is true for any brand. Despite what the social media snake-oil salesmen say, there is no one who actually has any real experience in social media.

What companies should have experience in is basic customer service, public relations, advertising, etc and apply those lessons learned in old media to the new model. And if you’re going to jump in the deep end of the pool, you’d better know how to swim and expect to get wet.