Coles takes the milk price war online, uses Facebook page to defend practice

Coles has been criticised in the past for making the odd social media blunder – now the supermarket has gone online with a video to fight the milk price war.

In a new video uploaded by the company on its Facebook page, the company attempts to spell out its argument for reducing the price of milk. The issue has been a contentious one among consumers, especially since a farmer wrote the company an open message on Facebook last year criticising its “price war”.

But at least one social media expert thinks the video is a good idea.

“I think it’s a really clever tactic,” says Catriona Pollard of CP Communications. “They’ve used the social media platform where they’ve received the most negative comments.”

“They’re engaging with social media and they’re using a platform that’s open to them.”

The video has already attracted over 100 comments, although many are discussion-based and aren’t attacking the company. It’s a change from the supermarket’s recent woes, as its Facebook page has been a hotbed for criticism.

The most recent incident occurred in August, when the wife of a farmer criticised the company for its cheap milk. The rant attracted hundreds of commenters pledging their support. At the time Coles was criticised for its slow response.

But Pollard says this new video is an example of a company which understands social networking and the power it can hold over customer debate and discussion.

“Using video is a very interesting tactic, and I don’t think that many other companies use it,” says Pollard.

Australian businesses have used video before, however. Westpac used a video back in 2009 to explain why it raised interest rates likening mortgages to the economics of making banana smoothies. Even Kevin Rudd, who was prime minister at the time, commented on the debate.

Westpac was forced to take the video down due to consumer backlash. Pollard says while the Coles video isn’t necessarily condescending, it’s going to nevertheless spark a debate – and that’s something businesses need to be prepared for when using online communication.

“People will find it condescending, but equally people will find it informative.”

“Businesses just need to understand if they participate in social media and Facebook, there will be backlash from it.”

Coles has had a bad run with social media. Early last year, the company was put on the spot after starting a Twitter campaign which actually prompted consumers to criticise the company.



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