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Can BP Tweet Its Way To A Better Image?

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Can BP Tweet Its Way To A Better Image?


Can BP Tweet Its Way To A Better Image?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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As soon as the spill began, BP started reaching out to Americans over the Internet. It's been posting videos of the cleanup on its YouTube channel, and it's using Facebook and Twitter to post links to news stories and updates on the spill.

NPR's Carolyn Beeler reports on whether or not BP's social media campaign is working.

CAROLYN BEELER: A video on BP's YouTube channel shows a company vice president standing on a sandy beach. Workers in the background clean along the shoreline with shovels and garbage bags.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

Unidentified Man: We have 25,000 people; they're working in five different states. And all of this has happened over eight weeks.

BEELER: The video is one of dozens that highlights BP's response efforts. Sites like YouTube and Facebook have allowed the company to communicate directly with the public.

Crisis-management expert Chris Lehane says BP has been good about putting information where people can get it whenever they want.

Mr. CHRIS LEHANE (Crisis Management Expert): I think they did a very good job identifying the communication outlets that exist in the new digital world. But I think they have fallen into the age-old, crisis 101, do-not-do list, which is to rush out information which has turned out not to be accurate.

BEELER: Lehane says with so many new places to put information, companies can feel a lot of pressure to get their message out fast in times of crisis. A BP spokesman says that's not what's happening at his company. He says it puts the same information on its social media sites that it releases to the traditional media, like newspapers and TV. But to some, that's the real flaw in BP's strategy.

Geoff Livingston runs a social media marketing company. He says when he looks at the BP America Facebook page, he sees a company talking at people.

Mr. GEOFF LIVINGSTON (Social Media Marketer): So if we look at BP America's Facebook page - all right, this is an interesting one. So I'm looking at...

BEELER: Livingston says BP is just messaging people. That's fine for an ad campaign. But it doesn't work well on Facebook, where people expect a dialogue.

Mr. LIVINGSTON: So when you have a two-way channel like Facebook or Twitter, you're expected to have a conversation. And eventually, when you don't have a conversation with people and you just put out messages and ignore them, people feel like you're not really there.

BEELER: Katie Oliver lives nowhere near the gulf. Still, the Wisconsin resident wants to learn more about the disaster, find ways to help, and express her frustrations. She posted a message on the BP Facebook page, telling the company to pay up, clean up and get out. But she says she's more drawn to sites like the Boycott BP page. The tone is negative on these anti-BP sites, but at least they're telling her something she can do.

Ms. KATIE OLIVER: People want to be a part of something, and I think that's why the anti ones are going to have more of an effect on people.

BEELER: There are Facebook pages that support BP, but most tap into the public's anger. An anonymous user set up a fake BP Twitter account under the official-sounding name BPGlobalPR. Here's a recent post: If you must cry over this oil spill, please don't do it in the gulf. Saltwater ruins our oil.

That fake Twitter account has 10 times more followers than BP's official Twitter stream.

Carolyn Beeler, NPR News, Washington.

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