Shell’s Fake Social Media Fiasco – What Would You Have Done?
This week, a scenario that cuts way too close to horrible for most marketers surfaced. Last month, a Shell Oil themed launch party gone wrong (about kicking off drilling in the Arctic) was filmed, looking very grassroots and incognito, and it was widely shared on YouTube. The video even shows the security of the “private” event objecting to the filming, much like you’d expect.
Next, enthusiastic, very real looking press releases were created, denying Shell’s involvement in the launch party. But, that’s not all.
The next move upped the game. An “Arctic Ready” themed website, with the tag line “Let’s go” and nearly identical to Shell Oil company’s site, became quite active, offering interactive ads about arctic wildlife and drilling where you add the caption.
Hmmm…a crowd sourced interactive ad campaign to promote Arctic drilling as OK and good to do. On the surface, seems like an interesting interactive social media concept, right?
Next, Twitter lit up with tweets and retweets lamenting the poor taste site, complaining about the incompetence of the social media team that wasn’t responding, asking people to not retweet these horrible lies, stating that Shell was going to sue the imposters, and so on, and so on, and so on. Every passing moment got worse, with one thing after another fueling and stoking the viral fire.
If it were real, all this would be beyond a horrific problem, but none of this was orchestrated by Shell – none of it. In fact, it was created by Greenpeace, an environmental activist group looking to keep Shell from drilling in the Arctic at all. OUCH.
Take a moment to absorb this – a full on social media onslaught with tweets, retweets, public displays of angst about the situation, and more. A PR trap where the activists played both sides to the middle and it was all fake. A totally coordinated digital protest, a parody at best and a copyright/trademark violation at worst (check out the list of stories about this whole scenario here).
Did I already say OUCH?…
What Would You Do?
So, what would you do if this happened to you?
Shell is scrambling to update information, getting the correct word out, but it’s very difficult to do that. Once information online gets out and goes viral, it’s very challenging to unring that bell. It will be a full time effort to seek out all mentions of the false information and get it corrected. I mean, seriously, how actively do you verify information as juicy as this before you share it? It all gets out of hand very quickly.
But, even if you do get out correct information, the people who have already read it won’t know the update, right? And, as news is, once the high wave recedes, it’s hard to get the same frenzy of attention that an initial viral rush received. A total bummer of a situation for sure.
Some Thoughts to Consider
Full disclosure – I am a not a big fan of Big Oil – not one little bit. But, regardless, I do feel there is a big lesson for all of us to learn about social media. Here are some thoughts to consider:
1. Listening is important- the sooner you know, the better. Shell could have found out and responded sooner, but they didn’t.
2. Crisis situations in social media are not solved by ignoring them – participate full force and keep going. You will probably have to out-talk the detractors somehow.
3. Take the time to build a really good online reputation, both as a company and as a social media savvy citizen in the marketplace. It will help insulate you in situations like this one.
4. Social isn’t just some crazy kids causing inconvenient problems. These activists knew their political and media chops. They knew where to push, how to do it, and they executed with some pretty serious skill. Social media can hurt you more than you may admit – you must respect it.
5. If your business model is easy to make fun of – or is harmful to society at large – or is controversial – you WILL have to deal with this. Be ready.
Sometimes Things Just Bite
I don’t think there is that much Shell can do in this circumstance. What do you think? If you had to advise Shell on how to deal with this in the future, what would you say? I’d love to hear your comments.
Til next time!
Vicki @Smartwoman Flaugher
Published: July 18, 2012 By: