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26

MAY 2010

Fake BP Twitter Feed Demonstrates the PR Pitfalls of Social Media

Poor British Petroleum. They just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to stemming the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, preventing the spilled oil coming ashore in Louisiana or getting the Environmental Protection Agency off their back for using toxic dispersants to degrade the oil before it reaches the surface.

And now this — a fake Twitter account that satirizes the company’s response to the spill that has attracted nearly 37,000 followers versus its real Twitter account, which has only about 5,500. Worse still, the followers of the real account are mostly nerds — the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard and the White House — while the fake one boasts Cindy Crawford, the Flaming Lips and Keith Olbermann among its followers.

The fake account features tweets like this:

We feel terrible about spilling oil in American waters, we’ll make sure the next spill happens where the terrorists live. #bpcares

Or this:

Please help us with rebranding. We’re not calling it an “oil spill” anymore, now it’s a “Southern Fun Party”. #bpcares

OK, they’re not all funny, indeed, some of them are downright juvenile, whereas the real tweets are all business:

BP will continue to provide live video feeds from the seabed throughout the planned ‘top kill’ procedure http://bit.ly/axxQYX #oilspill #BP

The disparity between the number of tweets on the fake feed (82) versus the real feed (304) points to the possibility that funny is harder to write than straight content, but it also represents what appears to be a real effort on BP’s part to communicate what is happening and provide a level of transparency that at times has been missing in its public statements and actions.

Is the BPGlobalPR Twitter feed harming BP’s reputation? Probably not. It’s obviously a joke, and the only thing that can salvage BP’s reputation at this point is for the company to plug the leak, clean up the mess and pay for everything without a fight.

Does the fake feed detract from the real one? Probably not. BP_America mainly attracts journalists, politicians and tourism organizations, even though it’s going to have a live feed of the “top kill” operation later today.

Could British Petroleum have prevented the fake feed? Nope. There’s no way a company can be expected to acquire every conceivable Twitter handle permutation of its name to prevent pranksters from making fun of it.

In the end, BP will just have to grin and bear the fart jokes.

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Comments
  1. “BP wants Twitter to shut down a fake BP account that is mocking the oil company. In response, Twitter wants BP to shut down the oil leak that’s ruining the ocean.” —Jimmy Fallon

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