Egypt’s Social Media Revolt: Is Your Company Next?


Share on LinkedIn

THE PROBLEM: Disengaged consumers are using social media resources like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to stage large-scale revolts against companies big and small.
THE SOLUTION: Make sure your organization is prepared to play by the open-dialogue rules of social media. You need to engage consumers through the channels of their choice … and then respond to their feedback quickly, tactfully, and politely.
Last March, the Nestlé company’s Facebook page was deluged with protests from users critical of the company’s environmental practices. Some protesters left messages on Nestlé’s page using Facebook profile pictures that were based on parodies of Nestlé trademarks.
These revised logos portrayed the company as both an abuser of the environment and a practitioner of cruelty toward animals. The Nestlé Facebook moderator, apparently irked by the appropriation of the company’s intellectual property, started posting rude messages threatening certain users with deletion.
The question for marketers: “Is inappropriate behavior on the part of some Facebook users a reason for the company to start insulting them?”
The answer is “no.” Attempting to censor fellow users of the social media space, or ordering on-line protesters with whom we disagree to cease and desist, simply doesn’t work.
Nestlé assumed it had more control over the social media space
than anyone actually does. At the end of the day, Nestlé’s arrogant
posts had not only galvanized an even larger base of protesters, but also kindled a P.R. nightmare.
Part of the price we pay for participating in the social media space is an acceptance of the basic principle of open dialogue. Yes, that means putting up with people who say nasty things about our company. It also means thinking carefully before responding to criticism.
Case in point: A moviegoer in Minnesota had a bad experience at the multiplex, and wrote the company via e-mail to complain about it. The response she received from a senior executive used profanity and told her, crudely, to take her business elsewhere. She posted the executive’s crass e-mail response to her complaints on her Facebook page. Within 72 hours, a host of outraged readers—over 3,300 of them—had joined a grassroots campaign to boycott the cinema. A tidal wave of bad press followed.
The question is: How can marketers prevent such social media revolts from emerging in the first place? By doing what Mubarak refused to do for three decades: Listen.
Start by recognizing that PR, marketing, and customer service all OVERLAP in the social media space. Therefore, make sure they have tight/real-time, communication linkages within your company.
Beware the “Mubarak Syndrome”: Give up the idea that you can “control” or censor social media participants.
Recognize that even harsh social media feedback is helpful and can teach you.
Do not cop an attitude. Listen.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. Good article. When I talked to folks about social media’s role in Egypt (or high profile cases like Nestle or Domino’s), they dismiss these cases as, to paraphrase:

    “That only happens with [insert your example here – high profile companies, consumer companies, political issues, etc.] it can’t happen at a local level.”

    Thanks for sharing the Minnesota movie example. It can happen at a local level in a big, big way. It can also easily happen in Business to Business but perhaps in a very different way.

    Overall an enjoyable read.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here