Coles suffers yet another social media backlash

Supermarket giant Coles has suffered yet another social media disaster, after a comment made on the company’s Facebook page by the irate wife of a dairy farmer has gone viral with over 73,000 “likes” and 4,000 comments.

While the company has issued a response, analysts point out Coles’ slow response paints a bad picture, given its social media bungles in the past.

Back in March, the company asked Twitter followers to finish the sentence, “in my house it’s a crime not to buy…”. Users responded with negative comments, including remarks accusing the company of putting unfair pressure on local producers.

The latest crisis was caused by a Facebook comment made by Jane Burney, which slams the business for its cheap milk prices. “The ramifications of it are finally rearing their ugly head,” Burney said.

“Dairy Farmers has announced its price for Tier 2 milk at 13 cents per litre. This is not sustainable in an industry where costs of production can be as high as 30 cents per litre.

“The consumer is paying $1 a litre and the only winner here is the supermarket.”

Coles proudly introduced its $1 litre milk prices last year as part of a price war with Woolworths.

It took Coles over two days to respond to the comment, finally posting on Monday morning saying: “We are committed to paying a fair price for our milk and actually increased the prices we paid to processors buffer we cut fresh milk process in store last Australia Day”. It also defended its practices, saying it has paid more money to producers.

Coles’ response deals with Burney’s accusations of importing fresh produce by reiterating Coles’ “Australia First” policy. It also finishes on a sour note – “why not take a look next time you are in store”.

James Griffin, head of online reputation management business SR7, says while the actual response to the comment is fine, it is the second incident within a few months for Coles.

“I appreciate here the incident was something they perhaps didn’t see coming, and it’s an issue many Australians feel quite strongly about.”

“But I think the comments from the Coles person suggest they didn’t have a plan to deal with what unfolded for them. The numbers alone, 70,000 shares, that’s massive for an Australian issue.”

The biggest problem here, Griffin says, is the time it took for Coles to respond.

“Ideally, any organisation should clearly state the hours of operation for their social media practices. They can even have it written on their pages, that their media is moderate between 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, or whatever it is.”

“You can’t give them too much for it, but if they are willing to invest in their social media, perhaps they should consider some sort of after-hours operation.”

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