The opportunity that Social Media offers a company when they are developing a Cause Marketing strategy are nearly endless. You have the potential to directly connect with customers and supporters in a way that can not be done using traditional marketing methods. Unfortunately many companies fail to take advantage of those opportunities, or worse yet, allow their social interaction to run wildly out of control with no effort on their part to guide the discussion.

A recent example of how social media and cause marketing opportunities can be missed is Nestle and the issues surrounding many of their products. Let me start by saying that nearly every global company is going to have people that can find issues with nearly anything they do. When you have that long of a reach detractors will be everywhere.

Borneo Orangutan photo credit Greenpeace

Borneo Orangutan photo credit Greenpeace

The latest issue for Nestle involves palm oil and how the growing demand for palm oil is causing deforestation in Indonesia. As the demand for a renewable palm oil source continues to grow, forests and peatlands are being converted to palm tree plantations in an effort to produce more oil. This, in turn, is destroying habitat for Borneo orangutans and Sumatran tigers.

As with any negative publicity there is an opportunity to engage customers and detractors and discuss solutions to issues. For it’s part Nestle does have a Facebook account, but it is obviously being used as a push marketing portal and there is no one from Nestle actually answering questions or helping to guide the discussions. Press releases are shoved out to the Facebook page and forgotten. This leads to a one sided discussion, often with responses from well meaning, but horribly misinformed people.

For example, this comment was left in June:

If the page were being monitored by someone from Nestle a quick reply with a link to a page posted on Nestle’s site in April that took me nearly an hour to find would tell them this:

Nestlé has stopped all purchases of palm oil from the Sinar Mas Company. This will continue as long as there is verifiable evidence of rainforest destruction by that company. Nestlé’s past purchases of palm oil from Sinar Mas was limited to supplying our factories in Indonesia, and we have now identified alternative suppliers.

This is also a great opportunity from Nestle to point at the causes that they are supporting in an effort to be a more progressive and socially conscious company. Efforts such as the pledge to replant 350,000 tree in the South American rainforest or their efforts to help rebuild Chile after the earthquakes there.

Unfortunately Nestle has chosen to ignore these great opportunities to promote their support of global causes, or to even engage in a dialog with the customers. They have instead chosen to use social media as another form of push marketing and have left it doomed to failure.

Many companies support great causes. Most, however, fail to capitalize on the potential good will that can be gained by being proud and up front about their efforts. It has been said many times that if you don’t toot your own horn no one will and in the days social media this is more true than ever. In fact, failure to tout your efforts to support great causes can cause many to assume that you are doing nothing at all.

What can Nestle do to improve their image?

  1. Have someone actually man their social media outlets. A voice that can interact with people leaving comments. Someone that can guide the discussion and provide answers.
  2. Stop using social outlets as another push marketing channel. 5 years ago this was acceptable, not today.
  3. Be more proactive in promoting the causes that you do support and the things that you are doing to correct past bad behavior.

While the folks at Nestle may not listen, look at your own business and how you can be more proactive in getting the word out on the good that you do. And if the folks at Nestle are listening, call me, we can work out a deal 😉