Have you seen @BPGlobalPR? It’s a feed of sarcastic, witty, sometimes inappropriate tweets from a fake BP PR person. If you take a few minutes and look at the stream of tweets, it’s obviously satire. But, a quick search shows that more than a few people don’t get the joke — and instead believe these 140-character bits come from an real-life PR person representing BP. And, the account is rapidly gaining followers (probably because the tweets are actually funny … if the situation wasn’t so sad). Over the weekend, when John Taylor wrote about the account, it had 900 followers. As of Monday morning? 7,346. (And, look at this screenshot. The retweet rates are high!) Update: As of Tuesday (5/25) afternoon, the account has 25,500+ followers.
Brandjacking is nothing new — remember the Heinz Twitter imposter? The person posing as an official Heinz rep was sharing good news and had developed a base of Heinz fans. Presumably at the request of Heinz, Twitter changed the profile name from @HJHeinz to @Not_HJHeinz. I thought Heinz could have worked with him to continue to share company news, perhaps in a non-official capacity. After all, he had developed a pretty strong following of people interested in Heinz.
But, this BP situation is different. BP is in the midst of a huge crisis — environmental, legal, reputation, etc. And, it’s easy to see how they may not find the humor in these tweets. Also, the account seems to violate Twitter’s terms of service (misusing a trademarked logo, not clearly identifying a parody as such). Should BP request the account be suspended? Would clearly indicating that the account is a parody be enough? What if BP just ignores the account?
If you worked for BP, how would you respond?
TIP: If you want to take steps to help prevent your own brand from being hijacked, use a service like knowem.com. It’s impossible to protect against every potential situation, but this is a good place to start.
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