Back on April 20th this year, a tragedy took place in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in thousands of gallons of crude oil pumping uncontrollably in to the sea every day. Reports of the actual figure vary wildly from anything between 40,000 gallons per day to 200,000 gallons per day, I guess we will never really know the answer to that one, but it is indeed a natural disaster for the area, and a disaster for BP.
Several attempts have been made to stop the flow, all of which have failed, and at the time or writing this article nearly two months later, it is still spewing in to the sea, and is expected to until August. BP have certainly been under the spot light with this one as the oil reeks havoc, but how are they handling their reputation under the social media spotlight?
Take a look at their website www.bp.com and you will see that they have done a reasonable job to keep everyone informed of what the current situation is and what they are doing. They have set up a default landing page so you can see instantly the moment you land on their site information about the spill which is a good move. Show me the transparency. There are plenty of videos, photos and regular news updates several times a day, so from a keeping you informed on their website point of view, I would give them 9 out of 10.
But what else is happening in the online social media space that concerns their brand?
A large number of Facebook pages have been set up urging others to boycott BP and generally discussing what they think of BP in no uncertain terms, with some quite heated discussions going on, and because there are so many pages, It’s hard to find the official one which is BP America, and it is being kept updated as there is news to share. What it does seem to lack is any response to the many comments that are being left by upset people who are looking for somewhere to vent their anger.
In reality, I am not sure what one could respond to those comments without getting into a slanging match like another well known chocolate brand did recently. Maybe the best policy on that one is to keep quiet. You decide.
BP have no control over what other pages may appear that are set up by others and simply have to ride the storm on that one apart from not allowing the pages to use their logo, but I think in the grand scheme of things, a logo infringement is the least of their problems.
Hop over to Twitter, and it is quite a different situation, with some finding an alternative way to bug BP. Again there are many pages that have been set up and 1 in particular has been extremely successful. The official Twitter page for the disaster is called @oil_spill_2010 and has the logo of Deepwater Horizon Response rather than BP, and it has 7500 followers, where as a spoof Twitter page called @BPGlobalPr complete with logo has more than 160,000 and climbing fast. The person or persons running this spoof page obviously think it’s very funny, and some of the quips have been amusing, but it is still a very serious issue.
The point again is, how do you control something like this when another person, somewhere in the world, is running a campaign against you online? You can’t.
The obvious thing here is that BP must not have been listening hard enough or in the right places for this spoof site to have taken hold so quickly.
The person running the site is offering T shirts with “BP Cares” at $25 each and a whole stream of quips like “We feel terrible about spilling oil in American waters, we’ll make sure the next spill happens where the terrorists live” and “It’s official, the phrase “All the tea in china” has been replaced with ‘All the oil in the gulf” – Can’t wait for the royalties!”
There is another official BP twitter page called @BP_America, the same name as the Facebook page, and it too is a constant stream of updates, so you can’t knock them on that score.
So again, what can you do if someone gets a bee in their bonnet and decides to set up various social media pages against you? Apart from asking the sites to take them down, not a lot can be done, freedom of speech and all. The key is to make sure you are in a position to listen before things get out of hand and hope it all blows over quickly. Or in BP’s case, plug that damn hole!