Nestle's Facebook Page: How a Company Can Really Screw Up Social Media

Last Updated Mar 19, 2010 12:07 PM EDT

Like the Force, Facebook can be a powerful ally -- but beware the Dark Side. This is a tale of how a big company can land itself in a PR nightmare in a matter of minutes, all thanks to the power of social media.

About 10 hours ago, Chocolate-maker Nestle posted a seemingly innocent request on its Facebook page: Nestle fans, don't use an altered version of the company's logo as your profile pic, or your comments will be deleted. (I'm paraphrasing, but only a bit.)

The reaction from more than a few followers: Don't tell us what to do, Big Brother! (Again, paraphrasing.) Nestle's response: The logo is our intellectual property. This is our page, we set the rules. You don't like it? There's the door.

In other words, whoever mans Nestle's Facebook page went on the offensive, responding to individual posters in a tone that was at times sarcastic or antagonistic. Here's an exchange that pretty much sums it up:



The problem here isn't the way Nestle is trying to police its Facebook page, though I think it's important that PR people recognize that an altered company logo is a compliment (and a very common online practice), not intellectual-property theft.

The problem, obviously, is Nestle's response to people who didn't like the initial statement. It's PR 101: Don't insult your customers. And in PR 2010, mind your manners in public forums -- especially those expressly created for fans of your company! It may be true that there's no such thing as bad press, but there's definitely bad social networking -- and this is a prime example.

Any company that maintains a Facebook page should learn from Nestle's mistake. In the meantime, it'll be interesting to see how the company responds once the higher-ups get wind of what's happened.

What's your take? Did Nestle screw up, or was the company right to assert its IP rights? Share your thoughts in the comments. [via Digital Inspiration]

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.

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