In 2010 when Greenpeace posted a viral video highlighting Nestlé’s use of palm oil produced from unsustainable practices which destroy the major habitats of orangutans, it did what any brand in panic mode do. It forcefully tried removing the video. A severe back lash and protests from all social media communities followed. Nestlé had learnt its most important social media lesson, although the difficult way―open engagement is critical when it comes to social media.
It embraced a new social media strategy based on principles of open engagement and developed a new framework using data and insights gained from social media activities on various platforms. The insights garnered from this framework were to guide Nestlé in all its future campaigns and help build its reputation.
Under the leadership of Pete Blackshaw, Global Head, Digital Marketing and Social Media, Nestlé created the Digital Acceleration Team (DAT), a digital leadership training program for digital marketing projects at Nestlé. The 12 members of each class are available to work on short-term projects that Nestlé units apply for. Then they return to their units, bringing with them what Blackshaw calls “digital vitamins” — a supplemental expertise that can be used to assist digital transformation in the graduate’s home unit.
The Training Programme
In an interview published in MIT Sloan Management Review Pete Blackshaw explains the working of the DAT. “We divide their time in three different areas: community management for some of our top global brands, like KitKat, Nescafé, Maggi, Nestea and the like. Hackathons, team projects, almost like a VC model where we would make our capacity from the Digital Acceleration Team [DAT] available to business units and functions who would compete for the DAT’s time. That would focus on really, really quick projects, things like mobile solutions in emerging markets. We’ve done probably over 100 projects since we started the program. The other piece is really intense training and thought leadership. After eight months, they go back to their markets and either lead digital in those particular regions, or just work on traditional marketing but have those digital vitamins as a back-up.”
DAT works on 3 core disciplines Listening, Engaging, Inspiring & Transforming. It makes extensive use of real time listening and data visualization to tap on online conversation and interactions as and when they happen.
How Data Visualization plays a key role inside a DAT center?
A typical DAT center has rows upon rows of flat-panel screens mounted on the walls for easy scanning of data, several desktops, glass walls, a hushed, generally high-tech atmosphere, and streams of live data visualized for rapid analysis.
On a typical day, the team monitors millions of posts each day on topics ranging from the latest cute dog photo on the Purina pet food website to who was drinking Nescafe to real time recipe tweets.
The team monitors metrics like volume of conversations, sentiment level and benchmarks it against other players by making effective use of data viz.
They also spend time listening and figuring out when and where to engage and how to communicate with consumers in the right context.
The center’s screens are set up to spot trouble. “When there are a high number of comments,” Blackshaw adds, “it alerts you that you need to engage.” That can mean a real-time online response from a team member. “If there is a negative issue emerging, it turns red.”
Through such effective social media engagement with the help of real time data visualization, Nestlé climbed to the 12th spot from 16th in 2011 in the Reputation Institute’s index of the world’s most reputable companies. In 2013, Nestlé joined the Forbes top 10 list of The World’s Most Reputable Companies.