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Kit Kat and Government Social Media – Lessons from the Nestle’ vs. Greenpeace debacle

If you follow the social media and PR news cycle you have probably heard by now about the mess Nestle’ has found itself in on its Facebook page while dealing with a coordinated campaign by Greenpeace against its use of palm oil in its products. There is already a host of blog posts and articles being churned out on this latest case study for the social media guru’s to pour over and draw lessons from though most focus on a consensus that Nestle’ failed in its outreach through poor etiquette and being unprepared.

While those are valid points more telling is the lessons that government agencies should be drawing from this episode and what it means for them as an ever increasing number of government organizations are turning to social media as a powerful and accessible tool for outreach to the public. The question government communicators and cybersecurity managers should be asking is not if they will be attacked as Nestle’ was but when it will happen and how they will manage it?

There is a lot to be said about how Nestle’s community manager might have handled this differently but I think there are separate lessons for government communicators to draw from this event:

Lesson #1: This could happen to you

It is a matter of time before groups decide to launch a similar campaign against a government Facebook page by high jacking the wall with a concentrated and sustained series of posts and harassing comments. Our recent Military Facebook Study showed that with well over a thousand pages in use for military organizations alone, and many poorly managed at best, the gap to be exploited is huge. The spark could be anti-war protestors or those opposed to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy against DoD or the way the FCC handles internet regulations. Whatever the cause it is fairly easy to organize a blitz online.

Lesson #2: Monitor your Facebook page for what fans are saying

Are you monitoring your page and what the fans are saying really? Our study showed that the overwhelming number of Facebook page administrators are ignoring completely the fan posts on their page and have no idea what is going on when the page is segmented between owner posts and fan posts. It wouldn’t be surprising that the first inkling of a problem came from an item posted on Wired.com or Mashable before some organizations even realized they were under attack. It is more important than ever that official Facebook pages are carefully monitored for inappropriate content and posts.

Lesson #3: Have a plan to deal with a coordinated social media attack

What is your plan to deal with this kind of attack or any kind of crisis surrounding your social media outlets? What is the procedure for notification of the organization’s leadership? How will your community manager respond? Do you have clear terms of use posted that give you the leeway to say “This comment is in violation of our posted terms of use and has been deleted” so you can avoid being accused of censorship? Do you have advocates you can reach out to for help in defending your organizations reputation? Who is the approval authority to launch your response plan? Just like you have a plan to deal with a fire in your building you must have a plan to deal with a virtual fire on your social media outlets.

Bottom line: It’s too late to plan once the crisis starts

The growth of social media as a valuable communications channel for government and industry to tell their story is also tied to a growth in online activism which will lead to inevitable clashes between the two efforts. Successful organizations need to recognize this dynamic and have effective plans in place to deal with the time when their turn is up to become the next big social media case study. Will it be a tale of success or an object of scorn? Like all successful communications efforts the answer lies in an effective strategy and plan long before the crisis occurs.

This post was originally posted at the JANSON Blog http://www.bit.ly/bzhquV

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