Did we learn anything from the Nestle Family Twitter-storm?

Remember my post from a couple years ago about the Nestle boycott*, the boycott that has been going on since the ’70s? Well, today the boycott and all of Nestle’s alleged crimes against humanity were brought to the forefront due to the #NestleFamily blogger event and the power of social media.

Photo courtesy Rahego

Photo courtesy Rahego

It started when Annie from PhDinParenting wrote An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event. If you don’t know about Nestle’s history, I suggest you go read that first. As Annie said there and I will repeat here, “This is not about what you chose to feed your babies. If you formula fed, whether by choice or by necessity, that is none of my business. That said, the marketing and advertising of formula has been linked to the deaths of millions of babies every year.”

As the event got underway today, the tweets began to fly on Twitter. While many civilly debated the issues at hand (unethical marketing of formula to developing countries where there isn’t access to clean water, child slave labor in the chocolate industry, the bottled water), others (from both sides of the debate) turned to name calling and snark. Still others tried to turn it into a debate of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, ignoring the real issue at hand – Nestle’s unethical business practices.

The bloggers who choose to attend the #NestleFamily event were caught in the middle. Some relayed the concerns and questions from the Twitterverse to Nestle, while others Tweeted about which Nestle candy they liked best.

The chatter on Twitter went on for hours before @NestleFamily (who had no social media team) finally stepped in and tried to field some of the questions themselves instead of depending on the #NestleFamily event attendees to do it for them. It was reminiscent of the #MotrinMoms debacle except Motrin responded with apologies and corrected their infraction. I have my doubts that a conversation with a bunch of bloggers at this point in time is going to bring about any real changes with with a company like Nestle that has been conducting business unscrupulously for more than 30 years. I’d love to see them prove me wrong though.

Others have written more about this, like Julia from Forty Weeks who wrote On missing the mark:

To me this is a case study for poor planning, short-sighted thinking and other classic marketing errors. What is clear to me is that there was no strategic or top-level thinking applied to this horrific play for Moms on the part of Nestle.

This is a stunning example of why those who are involved with marketing to women and in specific, social media need to have well grounded leader managing their strategy.

Nestle has lost control of the conversation – in fact the conversation that is being had is not only off-message (one would assume) but the defense of Nestle has been left in the hands of those least qualified to handle it — the bloggers who answered their call and came for a few days of fun. This is damaging to the brand on a profound level (obviously) and leaves these bloggers in an untenable position. Feeling loyal, under attack, not knowing facts, frankly over their heads and outside of any normal scope of engagement for an event like this.

Annie at PhDinParenting said:

I think there is an opportunity for Nestle, as a leader in the food industry, to take a leadership role on this issue. At a minimum it should start abiding by the law in all countries where it operates and not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. But ideally, in order to rectify some of the damage that its past practices have caused, it should go above and beyond what the law requires.

Christine at Pop discourse wrote On Bloggers, Breastfeeding, Formula, Morality, Change, & the Nestle Family Event and talks about why she chose not to attend the #NestleFamily event and how all of this impacts blogger relations in general.

MommyMelee wrote a great post called thinking outside the hashtag about ways you can take action.

I encourage people who are upset to research ways they can help, whether it’s through positive activism and awareness, donating time, or donating money.

So what did we learn?
I have to admit I found myself very frustrated as I read Tweets from both sides today. The name calling, the inappropriate jokes, and the total disregard for the serious nature of Nestle’s infractions are the kinds of things that make “mommybloggers” look like raving lunatics. But I also saw a lot of civil debating, people keeping an open mind and presenting information and their positions without attacking and that part – that part was awesome. It’s the respectful discussion that is going to raise awareness and bring about change, not the snark, not the name calling. Let’s keep up the awesome part – the dialogue, the desire to effect change. The awesomeness will bring about good things in the world. :) (Oh, and if you are a large corporation – hint, hint Nestle, please jump on the social media bandwagon NOW. You are missing out on a lot and doing yourself and those who want to engage you a disservice if you don’t.)

If you’ve written about this Nestle event, please leave me your link in the comments. I hope to put a list together. Thanks! In the meantime, please check out this Anthology of #NestleFamily Activist Blogs put together by @BestforBabes.

*Please note: there is now an updated Nestle boycott list as of 10/7/09. Thanks!

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60 thoughts on “Did we learn anything from the Nestle Family Twitter-storm?

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