As a staggering 82% of the worlds population (excluding China) has a Facebook account and the average British consumer spends around 1 hour and 20 minutes each day on social media sites, managing on average 4 different accounts, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter being among the most popular we all need to be mindful of the impact that negative press can have on our businesses particularly if we choose to use this cheap mass marketing medium to promote our products and services.
Only this morning I saw a new posting on my Facebook page that someone had shared about the food giant Nestle. It gave three reasons why we should not purchase their products as they are set to make huge profits around the ‘Trick or Treat’ season. Bang goes my Kit Kat then, not likely mate……. nothing better than a Kit Kat and a nice cuppa!
The posting starts by informing the reader that Nestle has been implicated in ‘child slavery’ on it’s plantations on the Ivory Coast. It then goes on to state that in one month, 34 factory workers died in a factory fire near Bangladesh where they manufacture packaging for Nestle and finally that Nestle have recently outbid on the rights and ownership to a natural water well against the inhabitants of a small town not far from Ontario in Canada.
Now the you can read this many ways the purely ignorant will simply ban all Nestle products from their homes. That might be more difficult than you think. The more intelligent will appreciate that in a world full of poverty there are sadly many situations that would seem unfair and wrong to us in the UK. It should also be pointed out that the child slavery case actually dates back to 2005 and that the factory that caught fire also manufacture packaging for the British American Tobacco Co among others and that Nestle are in fact in talks currently with the concerned Canadian townsfolk about the rights to their natural springs.
I am not saying for one minute that child labour is acceptable but as a well travelled person I have seen the affect on poorer peoples if their family members are not able to find work in order to earn enough to feed their families. Exploitation of course is not acceptable but I am afraid in this crazy world we live in it is inevitable however contentious that might be. It’s certainly a bigger problem than Nestle. We would be avoiding thousands of products in our homes if we were all to take the moral highground right now.
The point I am making is that social media gives us immediate impact and we have to be very aware of our responsibilities because we can all easily come under fire. The Nestle post is a very recent one, just a couple of days old but by 10am today had over 28,500 shares so this is powerful stuff.
This can sometimes be triggered by stupidity. Among other things I am co-owner of a unique boutique hotel and wedding venue. We have a 5 star rating and 98% of our reviews on Trip Advisor are complimentary and positive. We have had the odd bad reviewer and to be honest these are usually from people that have had one minor problem and then escalated their experience purely for impact and probably to see if they could get a free meal out of it. But they can cause real damage. We live in a transparent age now.
One of our competitors in the hotel trade set up their new Facebook account two years ago and within 48 hours another Facebook account was set up by previously employed but now disgruntled staff against them. Such is the power of social media.
Unfortunately we can all become victim to the poison pen these days and in an instant it can have a devastating affect on us personally and professionally. I have already written that I absolutely detest certain social media advertising because it assumes so much about who I am and I find it intrusive. Just because I have searched the internet for incontinent pads for an elderly relative on my PC does not mean I need to be bombarded with advertising for associated products every time I open my bloody Facebook page.
I am an advocate of responsible online advertising but I am also still very fond of great direct mail that is well targeted and cleverly written. Yes I am a bit of a dinosaur but at least before all this social media hype the very worst thing we could expect from a great mailing campaign was maybe one or two people writing in to have a go. You can’t please all the people all of the time but at least back then you could control it. That was until the mass mailers took hold of the direct mail industry and ruined it by drowing out the good stuff. This is now happening on social media, mass ‘throw it against the wall to see what sticks’ advertising is, unsurprisingly, going to invite criticism and the odd nutter. And there is so much of it now that everything gets lost in a heap.
So before you lay yourself bare to the elements of social media, you had better do some house keeping and check the closets to make sure nothing can come out that will harm your brand or reputation. It can happen and it can destroy you.