how bp should be handling social media.

29 Jun

a social media playbook for bp.


Image: Greenpeace Flickr by Russell Apotheker

the first 24 hours.

openness and transparency: bp should have immediately made hd video and images of the disaster available and also shared how they were calculating their oil flow estimates – they failed to do either. thanks to the web and social media we live in a fully transparent world where it is always better to point the finger at yourself first rather than waiting a few days and then having someone else point the finger at you – just look at bill clinton, tiger woods, enron, lehman brothers, etc. this may be counter intuitive to how people have done business in the past before the 24h news cycle and the internet. however, with social media there is no way of keeping things a secret or “under the table.”

what should bp be doing right now?

by all means necessary: humanize bp. they need to have flip cameras with all their employees and teams down on the gulf coast showing what they are doing to help the region. your employees are your greatest asset. try to humanize british petroleum through your employees rather than having the public simply seeing the “bp” initials as a hated logo of evil. not everyone that works for bp is evil – they are human. they need to highlight real people accessing claims via videos, to give the public a sense of the process taking place. also, they need to engage in the scariest part of social media: ask for feedback, then listen and react accordingly. use social media to keep the public informed on what you are doing, what you hope to achieve, and what your plans are. otherwise, people will not take you serious and simply make fun of the names that you give your plans. just look at: “top kill” – who even knows what that means?

how well is bp currently doing?

the one good thing bp did was to not overreact. they did not go after parody accounts like BPGlobalPR on Twitter that posted tweets in the vein of “50% off blackened shrimp today” and “hey, if you see any oil in the gulf it’s ours, please return it.” going hard after parody accounts right away would have been adding fuel to the fire. people, especially people with voices online would have been upset with bp and pointed out that they are not focusing on the important task of capping the oil well. another positive thing is that they have posted many resources on their website ( and you can also look at specific regions (e.g. alabama, florida) – this is a great start, but needs to be expanded on quickly.  overall, they failed to listen just how big politically and in the public mind this was becoming and then adjust their pr and spokesman accordingly. finally, it is not very easy to find their social presence (facebook, youtube, etc.) on

at the moment social media is a voice that is too big to ignore. if you lead an organization, through social media, you can frame a conversation and be the one that helps determine the perceptions and impression of your organization. social media is a powerful tool, use it!

what has happened.

what did bp’s ignoring of social media do? it created fertile breeding ground for parodies of their responses such as the one below that make them look incompetent.




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