My Personal Nestle Social Media Moment

April 1, 2010

I’ve been watching Nestle’s social media nightmare play out on FaceBook and Twitter over the last month.  For those of you who somehow have missed this – in a nutshell – Greenpeace Trojan-horsed Nestle’s FaceBook Fan page and slammed the company for its role in the illegal deforestation of rainforests and the killing of orangutans.  All in the name of bringing us more yummy Kit Kat bars.  This type of tree-hugging and criticism happens all the time – however the MAGNITUDE and VELOCITY now enabled by social media channels is unprecedented. 

 I have been keeping my fingers crossed that the powers that be within Nestle would hurry-up and realize that being defensive, dismissive, or arrogant wasn’t in their best interest.  I have used the early 80’s Tylenol Chicago death crisis as an example before and it applies yet again.  That said, Tylenol had much more control over the actual response and the delivery of it.  Nestle, not so much.  It was and is happening REAL TIME and very publicly.

 There are a variety of pieces written on how Nestle should have responded – how they should show-up now and how businesses need to be prepared for their eventual ‘turn’ so to speak – so I won’t go into those here.  What I do want to share is the notion that even if you DO respond in a timely fashion, with humility and an offer of restitution that sometimes the recipient just isn’t ready to hear it  – or isn’t willing – or is too hurt.  Sometimes you can’t undo the mistake, no matter how hard you try. And, sometimes you have to be patient and persistent about being transparent and ‘doing the right thing’.

A few days ago I recklessly made a somewhat ‘unfeeling’ comment on Twitter.  In hindsight, I am not sure what possessed me – I cavalierly took one person’s misfortune and used it as an example of how a new trend in location based services may have a huge downside.

Well, I received a direct message (DM) back letting me know that my comment was not appreciated.  I quickly posted a public apology taking full responsibility for my stupidity and making a reference to the fact that there are times when I behave like the back-end of a donkey.  I followed up with a private email – groveling a bit more and offering lunch as an olive branch. 

Two days of radio silence and I was beside myself.  I made a mistake and wanted to be forgiven immediately.  Life doesn’t work that way, does it?  Finally today, in the middle of writing this blog, the long-awaited DM accepting my apology beeped through.

The lesson I was reminded of – the lesson Nestle and others need to remember….is that avoiding making mistakes is impossible – not a viable option –  however, taking accountability for them and being genuine in our willingness to make things whole, is. At the end of the day – as seen from our collective trust in Tylenol, we have a grand capacity to forgive and regain faith.  So, my advice to Nestle and everyone else – whether their faux pas is being played out to millions of just a few – accept responsibility for your actions and figure out a way to make it right.  Oh, and most importantly accept the fact that it may be on someone else’s timeline.

Seeing if I can get through one day without a blunder – how much trouble can I get in by writing the Smack? or visit us at


10 Responses to “My Personal Nestle Social Media Moment”

  1. al Says:

    Wow! I think the lesson you need to learn that people are busy and 2 days isn’t really long enough to wait for a response. Especially to someone that isn’t too happy with you to begin with. This wasn’t a national PR crisis, but a person that had an unfortunate event and probably busy with dealing with that event. Are you really THAT self-centered that you believe your forgiveness was on top of this person’s to do list? I am pretty sure this person doesn’t have their own marketing department or PR team.

    You are lucky the person responded to you at all (and I assume forgave you). And shame on you for complaining about this person’s response instead of being compassionate and seeing if they needed help in some way.

    Patience is the lesson for you to learn.

    Think about this, if this was your customer you were begging forgiveness from, would have written this blog post?

    • Well, yes – that is my point. I was making fun of myself that I got so up in arms about waiting a whole 2 days…. I would not have mentioned the number of days otherwise. And, yes maybe it is a bit self-centered; I won’t argue that – but it also has a great deal to do with my intense dislike in hurting people. Patience is something that I will be learning my entire life….. or so it would appear.

  2. al Says:

    The sarcasm didn’t come across.

  3. Mark Walvoord Says:

    I definitely agree that time is an elastic thing. When we’re zooming along, checking off tasks on a to-do list or catching up with an old friend time seems to fly by. But when we’re waiting with baited breath for the release of forgiveness, or at least some form of resolution, for a personal error, then a minute (or two days) feels like an eternity.

    Anticipation can be wonderful and terrible, depending on what is coming down the road to us. But without it, life would be boring.

    You’re not overly self-centered, you’re human, and recognizing your impatience with the discomforting feeling of guilt is a great step toward overcoming the need to speed past the moments in your life.

    Sorry for talking in an overly zen manner, that’s one of my faults. But the previous comment sounded unduly harsh. We all live in glass houses, so stone-throwing is ill-advised, in my humble opinion.

    Have a happy Easter, everyone!

    • Mark – you hit the nail on the head…. every moment that passed when I thought that my stupidity had done harm was hard to endure. I am a big bull in a china shop and those in my life who know me understand that. My online and professional network don’t and I hate when I do stupid things….. which unfortunately is too often. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jay Cuthrell, Jack Perez. Jack Perez said: RT @qthrul: My Personal Nestle Social Media Moment #palmoil #right #turn #clyde […]

  5. It’s comparable to road rage. We get so upset when somemone cuts us off, or drives like a maniac when we aren’t. We have all been on both sides of road rage – how we react is important. Rather than flipping someone off, it’s more effective, and certainly less stressful, to remind ourselves that at some point we’ve done the same. Forgiveness and a certain level of tolerance are powerful. Apology follows. You did well, thanks for sharing.

    • Kathleen – thanks for your analogy. I really was trying to showcase that companies and people need to take accountability for their mistakes and that now with the proliferation of social media tools a slip-up or egregious error can be made public very quickly. My silly stupid mistake hurt one person vs the Nestle mess of deforestation and monkey-killing but nonetheless the only way to make things whole again is to address the issue – not run away or deny. Nevada, huh? Do people drive crazy there too?

  6. Jules Says:

    Nestle have closed ranks globally at present. i’m not sure if you are aware of the fact that they have recently bought out a much loved British cultural tradition of a business – Cadbury. They promised at the point of take over to not close any factories and the government let them go ahead. Guess what they did next? They are now being hauled through government channels and the acidic British media as a result. Fools are saying nothing and the people are not feeling the love. That + FaceBook = a marketing disaster for which their over paid spin doctors should be fired tout sweet!

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