The De-Branding of BP on the Social Web

There’s no question that BP has messed up big time – not just with the oil spill but the way its PR team has managed the aftermath of the incident. If you are looking for a social media disaster, the BP oil spill is the perfect example.
The company’s brand value has gone for a toss, customers are disgruntled and it has become a popular topic on all social media networks, albeit for all the wrong reasons. So, what went wrong with BP’s crisis management strategy? Did the company do enough to preserve its image in the aftermath of the incident? Let’s find out.

What went wrong on Twitter?

Perhaps, BP underestimated the widespread reach and power of Twitter. While the company’s official Twitter account @BP_America has merely 15,000 followers, a parody account @BPGlobalPR has managed to rake up 175,000 followers. What’s worse, the @BPGlobalPR account has been far more active than the company’s official Twitter account. It shows up higher in Google search results and has poked fun time and again at BP.

Needless to say, this fake account has caused irreparable damage to the BP brand. Though BP made its best efforts to get Twitter to ban this account, Twitter didn’t budge as its policy allows parody accounts as long as they do not mislead or deceive users.

The Miserable YouTube Video

While looking for a damage control solution, BP further made a complete hash of the oil spill by publishing a YouTube video featuring CEO Tony Hayward apologizing publicly for the mess. The video gained more public criticism rather than public sympathy. It appeared all cooked-up and well practiced. It was a classic case of BP’s PR machinery going horribly wrong.

Lack of engagement

IMO, lack of public engagement was one of BP’s biggest sins post the oil spill disaster. It just put up the information on its website and expected people to go there and search for whatever they need. Sorry mate, but that just doesn’t work in today’s age of social media. You need to engage with people and tell them if something has gone wrong.

Participation is important and BP completely overlooked it. While publishing the relevant information on Twitter, Facebook and other leading social media networks wouldn’t have averted the oil spill disaster, it would have certainly made information more easily accessible to general public. Further, it would have prevented fake accounts from cropping up and misleading public with wrong information.

If you have a social media presence, why not use it?

What next for BP?

The damage has been done and it would be foolish to assume that BP can set things right by buying a handful of search keywords on Google & Bing, setting up a Facebook page and tweeting more often. The best that BP can do is taking this disaster as a lesson to learn about the power of social media.

With power comes responsibility and social media is no exception to that rule. I hope BP learns this trick sooner than later!

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