Negative Buzz….. oh my!

Have you ever seen a social media blunder from one of your favorite companies or bad reviews on their Facebook page and it changed the way you thought of them?  In March 2010, a Nestle employee who was annoyed by the improper use of the Nestle logo by Facebook users decided to post a request on Nestlé’s Facebook page asking users to stop.  This upset some Facebook users and they posted their disdain for the scolding with some fairly tame posts questioning the motives of the request.   The Nestle employee didn’t appreciate the Facebook users opinions and decided to sarcastically post comments to the users with posts like, “Oh please… it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments” (Broida, 2010).  This PR gaffe was a huge mistake because it prompted more negative responses like one who said “Your page, your rules, true, and you just lost a customer, won the battle and lost the war! Happy?” (Broida, 2010).

I decided to check out Nestlé’s Facebook page to see if I could find any other blunders and instead found another PR problem facing them, negative posts.  There appears to be one who is a thorn on Nestlé’s side with the name ‘SAY No to Nestle All Year’ because they post negative comments on every story posted on their page.  On a story Nestle posted regarding their acquisition of Accer, a medical food manufacture for Alzheimer’s, SAY No to Nestlé posted,

“Will nestle do anything ever that might be ethically right but not make money for them or even lose money? Not until hell freezes over and probably not even then” (

And on a story touting Nestlé’s support for the regeneration of Haiti’s coffee industry this same user posted,

“Nestlé you can’t be trusted – you destroyed forests until you were rumbled. Bet you still do”.

How much longer can Nestle allow users to comment until the Facebook page becomes a detriment rather than a marketing tool?

In February 2012, American Express administered an internet usage survey and found 46% of US internet users turned to companies Facebook pages to vent their frustrations (, 2012). With brands increasing their social media presence, this type of negative buzz has to be hurting brands over time.  Since posts on the internet can last forever, it seems logical that every company should employee professional PR writers to monitor customer posts.  But in a January 2012 worldwide survey by a customer service provider, Satmetrix, only 49% of the companies surveyed actually followed up and tracked customer feedback on social media (, 2012).  According to, a digital intelligence company, “This buildup of negative buzz on social media can have a significant impact on brands because social media is more public and moves faster than customer complaints via traditional channels,” (, 2012).

Do negative posts affect your view of a company and influence your buying decisions?  How long do you think a company can allow a single user to continually post negative comments on every story posted on their Facebook page before they debar them?  Does your company employ people just to monitor customer reviews and social media sites?


Broida, R. (2010, March 19). Nestlé’s Facebook Page: How a Company Can Really Screw Up Social Media. Retrieved from (2012, July 16). Brands Ignore Negative Social Buzz at Their Peril.  Retrieved from

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10 Responses to Negative Buzz….. oh my!

  1. Meg Spitzer says:

    Kristina, this is such an important question!

    I know when I worked in sales, there was always reminders about the power of the angry customer’s word of mouth. Now, the “mouth” part can constitute old-fashioned conversations as well as Tweets, posts and blogs, all amplifying the voices of the unsatisfied customers. And, really, how often do we take the time to talk about service that met our expectations or companies that consistently provide us with what we need? What’s that book? Happy customers tell three friends; angry ones tell 3,000? Seems about right.

    However, for me personally, I don’t “like” very many product pages on Facebook, and I don’t have a Twitter account. I don’t stop by the pages for the products, services and businesses that I do happen to follow… but maybe that would change if I got really, really peeved? It’s just not in my nature to care that much if my dog food goes up $2.00 or the cherry Icee machine is broken. I don’t know that negative customer reviews would ever even affect my spending habits, mostly because you’re relying on the experience of one person out of tens/hundreds/millions consumers. (Example: I had to get my husband to stop relying on Yelp reviews that were often negative and angry not because the food was bad but because there was a screaming child at the next table, the waiter was slow to refill a beverage or the table linens were ugly–you know, those reviewerers who just generally hate everything about dining in restaurants. Now we Yelp when traveling to see local options but we pay little attention to the reviews and ratings and more to the menu.) Perhaps as people get used to the sheer quantity of angry reviewers versus the happy, repeat customers that don’t think about broadcasting their feelings, the effects of negative reviews will be watered down to the point that social media sites just become venting boards. I’m curious as to whether other people change shopping or spending habits based on such reviews or if more take the ambivalent approach that I do.

    Then, I wonder if Nestle actually cares about this. Obviously these people are creating negative buzz, but are they really affecting large-scale consumer spending? I would think Nestle-sized businesses would be relatively unaffected by the angry consumer because, at the end of the day, it is still small peanuts. Maybe they already have a plan to manage situations that escalate and really start eating into their image and profits (a crisis communication plan? 🙂 It will be interesting to see (and, for some of us, be a part of) the continued growth of social media effects in longstanding corporate cultures.

    • kristinq says:

      Hi Megan,
      That’s an excellent point about the eventual landscape of social media sites just being venting boards. That’s a scary thought. If Facebook becomes a place for dumb comments, worthless reviews, and bad jokes, why would a company advertise on their site? This could mean big trouble not just for the company’s Facebook page but Facebook itself. I would think they would want to do everything in their power to keep their site from becoming just a venting board.

  2. Neda Assadi says:

    Negative posts absolutely affect my purchase decisions. The same can be said with positive posts. And a better way to put it would be “influence.” Yelp, opinions from friends, family, etc. are all seen as credible sources in my mind, and I think for much of the general public as well. I see these said sources as people who are unattached to the brand. They are taking the time to voice an opinion.

    People are so busy running around doing these days – work / family / friends, keeping up with technology / keeping up on current events. Just writing out our daily tasks makes my mind spin! So given our hectic lifestyles, I really value opinions from sources I deem credible. If you’re making an effort to stop and tell me something about a brand – either negative or positive, some force made you want to do it. You felt empowered to say something.

    I love reading comments on-line. It’s like an insider’s guide to the brand. Definitely agree that there are comments that shouldn’t be taken into consideration if they don’t truly relate to the product or service – like the screaming baby mentioned in the comment above. That’s the perfect example of a situation where I wouldn’t consider that person credible in telling me about the brand. If it was about the service at a restaurant though, then I care.

    Some of the comments I value in the online world include those related to restaurants and clothes. I don’t like reading opinions about movies though. For movies, it’s funny, because I know a lot of people value what others think in regards to films, but I don’t like reading comments about movies. Choosing movies to watch and my subsequent thoughts on them are a personal to me. Great for discussion, but opinions of others won’t fully gauge my decision to see a movie. “It’s such a good movie!” Well what is “such a good movie?” Too much ambiguity for me!

    I think the net net is that credible comments in the on-line world are situational. Some work, some don’t. Consider the person’s mindset and rationale. What I value might not be what you value.

    What comments (if any) do you value in the online world?

    And to your question about how long to wait before removing a negative post, I think that’s situational as well. Definitely think that if an organization has the capacity, it should have a team monitor comments. It shouldn’t remove, but instead should reply to the comment. I’ve seen this strategy utilized on Yelp. If you delete the post, the public might begin to think that you are altering freedom of speech, and may question if all of comments posted are actually visible to the public. Definitely don’t want to be known as an organization that filters the feedback from its consumers, so I would suggest replying to negativity, not removing it. Would help the person commenting receive clarification, and would also allow others to see this clarification as well.

    Great post!

    • Aaron Fowles says:


      I’m with you on reading the comments. I find myself often more engaged in reading user comments than I was in the original article or post. I think that the debate/insight that ensues is part of the experience.

      As far as the evil Nestle poster, seeing that the person is not even brave enough to use their own name is grounds for immediately discounting any credibility the post ever had. I think if it was a person and this was the first time they posted with some type of evidence of the claims they are making (linking to an article, etc.) then I would probably pause and reconsider my own personal image of that brand. In this case, not necessarily deleting the comments made by this user just reinforce what an idiot the poster is.

      With the employee that was clearly uncomfortable or unwilling to see the brand logo being used playfully, this was a problem and the employee should have been disciplined. The person in charge of FB should have made a post about how the company does want its brand to be represented appropriately, but that it understands fans desires to be creative with the brands they love. The company could have also commented about how the views expressed by this one employee, while in accordance with internal standards, was an unwelcome attempt to force internal standards on its fan base and has been dealt with accordingly. While this may have upset the employee, the employee should have realized how the comment they made would upset the fan base and may impact the brand image. My guess is that Nestle will need to update their employee handbook to include a rule that employees that post on official company websites should be mindful of how that post may be perceived by the public and use sound judgement in their posts. If a post is found to be inappropriate or causes some type of problem, then the employee will need to be responsible enough to not only apologize, but understand that there may be severe consequences.

      Anyway, interesting post!


    • kristinq says:

      Hi Neda,

      I confess I have used reviews to book room in Kauai, visit restaurants in San Diego and see Movies. Plus whenever I do shopping on Amazon or other retailers I always sort by the star rating to see those items first. So like you I am influenced by them and think negative posts can be a bad thing.

      And I like your idea of replying to the negativity instead of removing it.

  3. jsutterf says:

    I found your post to be very interesting. With any product or company there are always going to be customers that you cannot please. Unfortunately for companies, the disgruntle customers are probably more like to complain. As you me, I read the posts to see the volume of negative remarks and how well they are reasoned. I try to see past just the complainers. It is an interesting question as to whether giving people a forum to complain is actually hurting company profits more than it is helping them.


  4. Jake White says:

    Thank you for the insightful post. This is a perfect example of a disgruntled customer/bad apple being given a very public platform to voice negative opinions. A viewer may be able to see the consistent negative posts and conclude perhaps much of the poster’s concerns have an ulterior motive. The past episode of “The Newsroom” (HBO) addressed a similar question: Shouldn’t ‘SAY No to Nestle All Year’ have to provide his/her actual name? Is it fair that this individual can make such detrimental remarks behind a veil? The battle over online identity requirements and internet ID’s will likely continue to be debated for years to come. I personally think a requirement would add integrity to online forums and decrease the amount of negative posts if one was required to stand behind his/her statements. What do you think?

    • kristinq says:

      Hi Jake,

      I agree that it’s pretty pathetic that this person can’t just use their name to post their annoying tirades. If I have bad experiences or want to post a bad review I don’t have a problem using my real name and email. That way the company can email me or contact me if they want.

      I think you are right on the mark with asking people for their emails/info when posting comments. Hopefully it would reduce the number of crackpots posting things and leave it to real reviewers. It would definitely keep the internet a useful tool instead of a nuisance.

  5. roufs says:

    What made me sad about your post was that this Nestle employee obviously had “an attitude.” Perhaps they did not like their job? But what strikes me the most is that this person did not have any customer service or positive social skills. Unfortunately it looks like no one at Nestle is monitoring the Facebook page, or this person would have been removed from those job duties. In this day of electronic and permanent communication, one employee can cause a lot of damage. So can negative posts from consumers. I think it is sad that someone has made it their mission to post unkind remarks on Nestle’s site. Nestle should really shut down the page for a while or find an upbeat person to monitor it. Time for a little Crisis Communication!

  6. kopec says:

    You present a very interesting dilemma for companies, how to let customers have a dialogue with you but not have that conversation dominated by one or two angry customers.

    You mention barring the consumer as an option, however, the recent news that 83 million facebook accounts are fake, indicates that the banned consumer would likely create a new account and complain using a new name.

    Your post reminds me of Chris Grams’ 2012 book “The Ad Free Brand” in which he suggest that companies no longer create their brand, the “curate’ it. Rather than telling people what the brand means, companies should seek to create meaning with the help of those people.

    Maybe a customer that is so angry that they spend this inordinate amount of time bashing the company revels less about the companies failure to monitor their social media sites, and more about their failure to be authentic, build community, and allow the brand to belong to the consumer.

    I recently went to Trip Advisor to see customer feedback about a hotel I was planning to stay at. The hotel manager clearly monitored this site daily, and responded to every negative comment with explanations, apologies, and offers of discounts. While this level of attention seems like the right move, it was actually off putting, and made is seem like negative comments were expected and like the manager knew the hotel wasn’t very good. If that level of attention was paid to the customers when they were at the hotel, perhaps the comments could have been avoided.