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Ben Hatton Vital to have a social media strategy in place.

LAST week, the spotlight was keenly focused on social media and how organisations are using it.

Nestl courted controversy online after it responded to criticism over its use of palm oil by telling Facebook fans that comments would be deleted if it referenced the subject. Now, brands love social networks, what's not to love? No other platform offers businesses the speed and opportunity to interact directly with consumers at such low cost. Outlets such as Facebook and Twitter can be powerful allies, but, as Nestl quickly found out, they can also be a PR nightmare.

Nestl's censoring of posts and failure to engage followers, address concerns and answer questions left them in murky waters with fans.

It went against the social grain by encouraging users not to express their opinions and policing the site - right? Well, if posts are derogatory, call into question an organisation's brand and attempt to damage its reputation, surely it's ludicrous not to monitor the site and delete posts? Now, Nestl's biggest mistake was failing to understand how social media can go wrong and having a strategy in place to counteract negativity.

That's something Ryanair is trying to achieve with its first foray into social media, with the announcement that it will be building social media into but will not be engaging third party sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

The company, which is not renowned for its customer service or interaction, is clearly dipping its toe in the water in an attempt to embrace the social bubble, while also retaining an element of control and ability to police.

There's no doubt social portals can be very beneficial to a business's marketing campaign, but it's not just about setting up a page and racking up the followers, it's important to have a strategy in place from the outset to avoid mishaps like Nestl's.

Arguably, Nestl can afford to be so bullish - I am sure it won't stop people eating KitKats or drinking Nescaf. * INTERNET entrepreneur Ben Hatton is founder and managing director of Liverpool agency Rippleffect.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 29, 2010
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