BP Was Absolutely Right (About Twitter)

[tweetmeme source=”worob” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

The following is a guest post by Colin Alsheimer, Marketing Manager at LevelTen Interactive. He also serves on the leadership team for the Social Media Club of Dallas and writes about digital marketing strategy at ColinAlsheimer.com. Follow him on Twitter via @levelten_colin.

One of the first lessons we’re taught in the social space is to monitor your brand. By monitoring your brand, you’re able to respond to critisicms, complaints, or worse – a complete brand-jacking. So general reasoning would lead you to believe that once BP learned of the fake twitter account, @BPGlobalPR, who due to satirical tweets about the recent oil spill, was quickly amassing a very large following.

So when BP decided not to take action against their Twitter imposter, it initially struck me as puzzling.

Why wouldn’t a major brand, currently suffering fierce public backlash, not work to control an increasingly public attack against their brand?

The initial confusion gave way to insight as I slowly realized that BP chose the best possible way to approach the issue – by ignoring it.

Here’s why this was smart:

  1. Taking action against the account would have resulted in further public backlash. @BPGlobalPR ammased a public awareness very quickly. By the time BP’s real Twitter account, @BP_America got around to shutting it down, it would have been too late. BP would have looked even more the evil corporate entity. Not to mention, it would have likely resulted in a slew of more spoof accounts that BP would have to deal with.
  2. The level of confusion surrounding the account is low with Tweets like, “Catastrophe is a strong world, let’s all agree to call it a whoops daisy.” It’s very clear that BP is not actually running this account. Combine that with the avatar spinoff of BP’s logo, and there’s a generally low level of brand confusion. (Note, the account was originally using BP’s logo as their avatar. Early on, the avatar was changed, so there may have been some behind-the-scenes negation.)
  3. The satirical tweets do more to relieve frustration than provoke it.It’s no secret that people are frustrated. This oil spill could go down as the worst environmental disaster in history, making other spills like Exxon Valdez look insignificant.  It’s in BP’s best interest to find ways to alleviate that frustration that don’t involve more negative PR for the brand. @BPGlobalPR is a blessing in disguise. By bringing humor and satire to the unfortunate situation, @BPGlobalPR actually serves to defuse some of the anger against BP.

BP handled the potential PR nightmare of the @BPGlobalPR in an unconvential manner, but so far, it looks like it’s paid off. What do you think of the way BP handled the situation?  Do you agree with their decision not to take action against the account? Does this set a precedent for other brand jackers on social media Web sites?

Advertisements

10 comments on “BP Was Absolutely Right (About Twitter)

  1. While I agree that once the momentum began, BP should not have taken action to shut down the @BPGlobalPR Twitter account, I do think it would be possible for BP to instead acknowledge the Tweets – and respond in an open manner showing real contrition and concern for the growing catastrophe. Instead they’ve chosen to ‘bolster their image’ with shiny TV ads supposed to highlight all they are doing.

    I would have advised a client in a tough situation to actually point to the satirical site – give them credit for bringing up hard issues and acknowledge that they could be doing a much better job themselves. However, BP does not seem remotely willing to admit how wrong they have been – about many things, including handling public communications. Truth – honesty. Sometimes tough.

    • Donna – you make a great point. BP’s decision to invest millions in TV ads was foolish. It still surprises me that they haven’t taken steps to become more engaged in the social space by responding to people like @BPGlobalPR, and others, who have spoken out about the situation. Granted, if they started responding through social it would have certainly opened the floodgates, but would have been a good move none the less.

  2. I definitely think BP was smart to leave the fake account up – all of your points are valid. But I also agree with Donna that in ignoring the account they missed an opportunity to, well, relate with the public. Yes, they could have opened the floodgates, but maybe just acknowledging the anger behind the effort would have let out some of the steam. I think by ignoring it completely, they gave the impression that the account’s/public’s opinion doesn’t matter.

  3. I definitely think BP was smart to leave the fake account up – all of your points are valid. But I also agree with Donna that in ignoring the account they missed an opportunity to, well, relate with the public. Yes, they could have opened the floodgates, but maybe just acknowledging the anger behind the effort would have let out some of the steam. I think by ignoring it completely, they gave the impression that the account’s/public’s opinion doesn’t matter.

    • Niki – another good take. It would be nice to see BP let their guard down and step out from behind the controlled PR wall. This is exactly the kind of situation where BP needs to show their human side. I think some people would have been a bit more forgiving of the situation if BP had just come out and said “we screwed up, we’re sorry, and this is what we’re doing to fix the situation.”

  4. Finally seeing this perspective from a PR person! Thank you! I’ve seen several PR blogs say BP “needs” to ask Twitter to take this account down or at least state publicly that it isn’t really BP. In my mind, that would be idiotic. BP doesn’t want to make headlines for spending its time worrying about Twitter rather than cleaning up the spill. It’s bad enough that they’re already getting flack for buying Adwords relating to the disaster and spending lots of money on PR.

    (Though of course if they didn’t do the latter two things they’d get criticized for not reaching out to the public.)

    • Thanks for the comment Jelena! I feel as though this post is now somewhat ironic, given that BP / Twitter did wind up asking @BPGlobalPR to make some sort of distinction that they aren’t affiliated with BP.

      But you’re right – BP has much bigger problems to worry about then how they’re portrayed on Twitter.

  5. I stumbled on this and since I’m ‘outside’ the Tweet community I thought I might offer you another perspective. You are all obviously very passionate about this but perhaps you are not seeing the forest for the trees.

    I would suggest that the reason BP doesn’t bother to ‘fight’ this is because in the broad scheme of things Twitter means very little. To put it in proper perspective more people (by percentage) believe we faked the moon landings than use Twitter.

    We already look at people on Twitter as kooks, loons and potentially a little off – why would we take anything said there seriously? We don’t. (Please don’t shoot the messenger. This is the perception of non-tweeters).

    Again, I know you do (take it seriously) but I’m trying to point out that the ‘rest’ of us don’t get news from Twitter (95% of Americans are not… Tweeters? Twits? Help me out) and thus could care less what is being tweeted. And generally we don’t believe a single thing Tweeted until it shows up at a respectable news organization (and yes, I realize that is an oxymoron).

    Please accept my apology if I’ve offended anyone saying this – not my attention. I just wanted to make the point that perhaps since Twitter is such a limited medium perhaps BP didn’t waste time/money/energy on it because the good (or bad) results they can hope to achieve wouldn’t be worth the investment.

  6. Pingback: What To Do When Media Trainers Give Bad Advice « PR at Sunrise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s