BP is facing a public relations disaster on yet another front — this one over the highly publicized fake Twitter account BPGlobalPR. The social media hoax, called “brandjacking,” tweets sarcastic news about BP’s missteps and suspect corporate behavior. It currently has more than 150,000 followers and continues to gain attention.
This week, the tweets finally caught the attention (or hit a nerve) of BP’s communications team, who demanded that the site declare itself to be a parody. Those behind the BP parody tweets are refusing to back down. If BP presses the issue, things are going to get nasty.
Two observations jump out from this situation.
First, why did BP wait so long to try to stop the hoax? Were they not monitoring what was being said about them in social media? Is it possible that a multinational corporation currently embroiled in an environmental disaster failed to recognize the influence of Twitter?
Second, this issue speaks to a growing acceptance of pseudo-news and comedian commentary as a mainstream source of information and influence.
Granted, editorial cartoons have been a mainstream source of influence for centuries (it has been a Pulitzer Prize category since 1922), and for years The New York Times Week in Review section has included quotes from late-night hosts such as Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman in its news summary, but something funny is going on here.
The list of bogus Facebook pages and YouTube videos has also proliferated. By some estimates, roughly 40 percent of Facebook postings are ficticious.
Funny thing is, these parodies are proving to be effective tools. They enter the web of influence and have a lasting and profound impact on public opinion.
I guess everything is news in the ever evolving environment of influence. A valuable lesson for all of us.