BP has a problem. No its not the tens of millions of gallons of crude oil floating or submerged in the Gulf of Mexico.
No its not the countless wildlife or fish or shrimps dying across the Gulf.
No its not the thousands of livelihoods destroyed by the spill
No its not the billions wiped off its share price.
The problem is twitter.
BP has a twitter problem. And therefore it ecological and human disaster has become a PR disaster too.
This is the first oil spill of the twitter age and BP is being gazumped by its critics.
First there is BPGlobalPR, which has grown to has 132,800 followers, including the likes of Greenpeace and Organising for America, the grassroots campaign that helped Barack Obama get to the White House.
And then there is BP America’s twitter feed which has some 11,700 followers.
In the first oil spill of the tweet age, this is a problem. As BPGlobalPR gets re-tweeted, no one knows what is coming from the company or from its critics.
BPGlobalPR is a satirical site. Tweets over the last 24 hours include “how to try our cap operation at home! Hold a funnel over a firehose, sell what you catch and proclaim victory!”
Or “Look, cut us some slack. We’ve kinda just been winging this whole “deepwater drilling” thing.”
Or “Any laborers who feel nostalgic for black lung can help us pretend to clean! Relive history for $10/hr!”
On Saturday the site tweeted “Safety is our primary concern. Well, profits, then safety. Oh, no — profits, image, then safety, but still — it’s right up there”.
In an interview with the New York Times, the creator of the BPGlobalPR Twitter feed, someone identifying as Leroy Stick explained the rationale for the feed, while providing no personal details.
“Satire on its own can’t get bad actors to act better, but it can attract attention and direct people to those actors and their actions. A lot of people, especially early on, sent me angry messages thinking the account was legit. I like to imagine that moment when they realized it was a joke, and they had to think about what the account actually was and why it existed.”
Twitter for the moment is not intervening: the company favours an “open exchange of information and ideas between individuals, organizations, corporations and government leaders,” including parody.
The trouble is that sometimes its difficult to work out the difference between the two. Which is satire and which one is reality?
BP America latest tweet is that “Our top priority is the Gulf. I will not be diverted away from that. We will spend what it takes to make it right.” Tony
Given the state of the Gulf right now, from devastated communities to devastated wildlife, anyone would be forgiven to think that “Tony” aka Tony Hayward is taking the piss…