Earlier this week on the Cheerios facebook page a link to an old christmas Cheerios advert was posted showing a kind elderly woman feeding her grandchild in his high chair.
Using the Cheerios on his tray she shows him why some of his relatives can’t be there for the holidays. It is a typical schmaltzy seasonal holiday ad that you see a lot of at this time of the year.
Since then more than 1500 users have left mostly negative comments. Not about the video itself, but about the fact that General Mills uses genetically modified ingredients in their products such as Cheerios.
Comments like “They are filled with GMO’s…..won’t be buying theses when there are organic versions in my grocery store!!!” and “General Mills donating $1.2 million to keep consumers in the dark about Genetically-Modified-Organisms. Brilliant!!” are certainly not the type of feedback the innocent seasonal post was supposed to have evoked.
So why was there suddenly so many negative comments? It was protest campaign initiated by the Facebook Page GMO Inside who are a coalition of businesses and organizations that want to bring more awareness about GMOs to the public. GMO Inside called on their followers to go to the Cheerios Facebook page and leave their comments about the company’s use of genetically-modified ingredients in the kid-friendly cereal.
The negative comments actually forced General Mills to remove an app from their page that was supposed to let users create messages about what Cheerios meant to them when hundreds of messages were created that said things such as “Poison” and “Made In A Lab”. All the comments associated with the app were removed but hundreds more remain on their page under the video status post.
Beyond the removal of the app though there has been no response from General Mills regarding the anti GMO comments.
One of the rules of social media is to initiate a two way conversation with followers and address their concerns about a product or service in a timely fashion.
The fact these comments haven’t been addressed at all and even seen comments removed has meant the criticism has now spiraled into a firestorm.
Obviously General Mills don’t want to have the GMO conversation with their followers or they are trying to craft a response through their legal team but they should at least acknowledge the fact they are listening to the comments in a friendly way.
They have chosen to ignore this matter and no longer have control of the conversation on their own Facebook page. The fact they also deleted comments meant more negative content was created in its place and now it appears they are trying to hide the issue.
General Mills are now on the wrong side of the social media double edged sword. You can have impassioned consumers who will sing the praises of your products to their friends but they are or so just as likely to mobilize and backlash.
Kashi faced a similar situation earlier this year when consumers took to their Facebook page to tell them they felt a little misled by the brands “all natural” claim even when some of the products use GMOs. Kashi did listen though to their customers and within a month of the controversy they announced a “long-term initiative to produce significantly more organic and Non-GMO Project Verified foods.”d
It is hard to control the message when you have this amount of negative comments that amass so quickly but a simple “Thank you for your comment.” Would be a start to turn things around and let commenters know they are been heard.