What you can learn from the BP Global PR Twitter spoof
You’ll often hear social media dorks like me talking about how easy it is for brands to lose control of their message in social channels, but what does that actually mean in practical terms? This is a good example:
Following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, somebody set up this spoof BP Global PR Twitter stream to parody the company’s handling of the crisis. While it should be obvious to most people that it’s intended as satirical comment (which is possibly why Twitter has not taken it down), there is a small danger that it could be mistaken for the genuine BP Twitter page.
This is a relatively new problem for comms professionals. While it’s not unheard of for people to set up entire spoof websites to poke fun at brands, this can take a lot of effort to do well, but setting up a fake social media profile for a brand is a piece of cake. Twitter, especially, lends itself perfectly to this kind of parody.
It’s funny until it happens to you
This kind of thing is all very amusing when it happens to another brand, but just imagine arriving at work one morning to discover that this has happened to your company and the board wants to know what you’re planning to do about it. Not laughing any more, are we…
Trying to have the page removed entirely might not always work (many consider satirical imitations to be protected free speech), will usually be seen as heavy-handed, and can create a backlash, exacerbating the problem. Compare these two headlines and make up your own mind which sounds worse:
- Spoof Twitter account pokes fun at BP
- BP tries to censor spoof Twitter page
The first headline is almost a non-story, but the second is much more interesting and likely to get a lot of attention. (For the record, as of the time of writing I have no idea whether or not BP has tried to shut down the account.)
Unless the content is malicious or clearly being passed off as genuine comment from the brand, it’s often for the best simply to demonstrate that your organisation has a sense of humour and can accept being the butt of the joke with good grace. A large part of social media engagement is showing the more human side to your organisation, so a little humility can be a good thing.
Smart, 21st century companies might well use this as a learning opportunity. If somebody is satirising your brand and building up a large audience in the process, there are clearly lessons to be taken from that. Ultimately, most satire is a form of criticism, so the question is whether your business is able to make any improvements as a result of that criticism.
(Here’s a screen-shot of the page in case it does get pulled : click here)