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BP: What A Social Media Strategy Is Not

by on August 9, 2010

Similar to the rest of the world, the social media and networking phenomenon is growing extremely fast in the UK. Eighty-five percent of the population is online, spending more than six hours on social media sites every month – nearly 60% of them read blogs and 64% have their own profile on a social network.

Businesses are feeling the pain, as well, according to The Washington Post.  Recently, British employment website My Job Group said it polled 1,000 British workers and found that nearly six percent, or 2 million, of Britian’s 34 million-strong workforce spent over an hour per day on social media while at work, amounting to more than one eighth of their entire working day.  The work time lost on Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks could potentially equate to be costing Britain up to 14 billion.

Thus, businesses are increasingly resistant to social media.  Case in point:   British Petroleum (BP).  How could I resist blogging about this topic?  BP, a relatively unknown oil company to many in the United States prior to April 20, 2010, found itself front-and-center in the worst oil spill in U.S. history after its Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, triggering a catastrophe on the Gulf Coast of the United States.  As easy at it is to turn this blog into an epic PR case study, I will try and focus on the digital aspect of BP.

Many argue BP lost control before the oil spill.  BP engaged in social media at a very minimal level.  They operated 2 of 4 profiles on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, using the two minimally, at best.  As everyone knows, you cannot flip a switch and actively engage in social media.  Especially since advocacy groups like Greenpeace watch your every move as an oil company.

However, when news of the oil spill broke, BP went into full damage control – including diving in head first digitally.  It started to buy hot keyword search terms such as “oil spill” and “BP sucks” on major search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo, while trying to place its cleanup efforts strategically on the advertisement sections.  However, other photos surfacing on the Internet depicted radically different scenarios from their cleanup efforts.  And, while they focused on social media quickly, it’s popular belief the company was legally held from apologizing or admitting to doing anything wrong.  In addition, BP’s Twitter feed was overwhelmed by a fake BP Twitter handle publicly bashing the company in parody-style.

While BP’s current social media strategy seems to be stronger than pre-oil spill, it appears the damage has been done on its reputation.  With the parody BP Twitter handle eclipsing the amount of followers of BP’s Official Twitter handle by over 100K, it appears its story is not getting out to the public.  BP’s main strategy seemed to have been via traditional media as it launched its massive TV advertisement campaign featuring now-disgraced CEO Tony Hayward.   Traditional advertisement is adequate for awareness; however, the company is missing an integral part of its digital response:  consumer engagement.  To this day, it does not allow comments on its Facebook page.  Does that sound like a company who has learned its lesson in regard to social media?

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From → United Kingdom

2 Comments
  1. I liked the first part of this post and the direction you started to take of looking at businesses and the workforce in the UK and whether social media may just be offering a mounting distraction that some businesses may need to find ways to deal with. This was a good start, but then your post took a hard turn towards BP and looking at the oil crisis. How did this relate to how people were using social media at work in the UK? Your premise that BP was not using social media because people who work at BP might have been wasting working time using it during business hours didn’t really make sense without any proof points of this. More importantly, while this might have been a good topic for the first week where we were focused on the US, in this situation the fact that BP happens to be a UK company felt incidental. Your assignment was to focus on the UK market and much of your post seemed very focused on BP’s efforts in the US instead. (3 + 1 for being first = 4)

  2. But before we get to the serious part, of course, he has to go
    ask the girl out first, above anything else. You can’t obviously call a girl that does not know you. It also portrays you as an adventurous and outgoing person willing to try exciting things.

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