Remember the brandjacking experience of Exxon? In 2008, someone set up a Twitter account representing themselves as a spokesperson for the oil company. The account fooled several prominent people in social media who praised the fake Exxon for leveraging Twitter to have conversation about its business with the public. Several days went by before the public realized the account was a fake.
Well in the wake of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, now it’s BP’s turn.
@BPGlobalPR (BP Public Relations) started tweeting Wednesday. Although I have to say, it’s pretty clear that this account is a parody.
Twitter’s Terms of Service allow for parodies, but from my read it looks like @BPGlobalPR might be in violation of the terms because they aren’t clearly labeling the account as a fake.
Maybe that’s why some on Twitter don’t get the joke.
For example @Resplendicity tweets “…YOUR COMPANY WILL NEVER HAVE MY BUSINESS AGAIN”
To which @BPGlobalPR responds this morning:
So all of this begs the question: how the real BP should respond to the account which seems to be gaining traction on Twitter? As of this morning, the account has over 900 followers and is being retweeted by dozens of people across Twitter. (The Beverly Hillbillies crack, for example, has been retweeted by 53 people so far.)
On the one hand, even commenting on the existence of the account may leave the impression that BP has a thin skin. They can’t really afford to say something like, “There is nothing humorous about this disaster which took the lives of 11 of our co-workers and injured 17 more team members.” Nor should they say, “We’ve got more important things to worry about.”
On the other hand, is completely ignoring the account the right response? Some would say doing so creates the impression that BP isn’t fully engaged in managing its crisis response. (Remember, some people are so angry that nothing BP says or does will be enough to satisfy them.)
The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
My counsel would be to work with Twitter to ensure that the parody account complies with Twitter’s terms of service, which require that the account conspicuously identify itself as a parody in its biography section. They should not seek the account’s removal — that would risk criticism that more attention should be spent to cleaning up the spill rather than protecting BP’s reputation.
Instead, they should beef up their existing Twitter account, @BP_America.
- First, they should ask that Twitter grant the account “Verified” status and they should consider managing the account in a more conversational manner. (Right now, it’s largely links to content BP wants the public to see.)
- It would also be smart to identify the real BP employee or employees who manage the account. (People want to to have conversations with people, not brands.)
- I would also include links to other social media channels where BP is active. (Southwest Airlines does this well, in my view.)
From my view, I think the real BP has done a good job in managing the crisis communications surrounding the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They’ve given quick responses to media questions and they’ve not been afraid to admit that their initial statements about the extent of the spill were incorrect — the disaster is much worse than anyone first realized. They’ve also disputed others’ estimates saying the spill is worse than BP believes it to be.
I’ll be interested to see how they respond to this Twitter parody. What would you do if you were BP’s social media lead?