BP Should Have Been Dredging for Twitter Followers Long Ago

Last Updated May 24, 2010 5:22 PM EDT

You know you're a corporation with no credibility when the followers to a rogue Twitter account about your company outnumber those to your official account -- by a margin of more than two to one. The corporation in question, as you might expect, is BP, and here's the Twitter follower tally.
  • BPGlobalPR (the fake account): 9,388 followers, acquired in about five days.
  • BP_America: 4,473 followers. The account has been active at least since mid-April of last year.
  • Oil_Spill_2010 (a joint account with other entities involved in the cleanup): 5,350 followers.
Though hardly scientific -- hey, neither are some of the attempts to stop the oil leak -- these stats demonstrate a certain lack of interest in whatever it is that BP has to say, and that's a problem that BP should have started solving before the disaster began to happen. Instead, if you take these follower numbers at face value, today more than twice as many people saw the fake BP tweets:
Jesus walked on water and soon you can too! (Please pray for BP, we're losing a lot of oil).

The good news: Mermaids are real. The bad news: They are now extinct. #bpcares

As saw the authentic BP Tweets:
BP Pledges $500 Million for Independent Research into Impact of Spill on Marine Environment http://bit.ly/b0JOwa #oilspill #BP

Live video feed from the ROV monitoring the flow from damaged riser on BP.com http://bit.ly/lWvgD #BP #oilspill

Rather than giving this channel lip service, BP should have made it a robust one where it truly interacted with its followers over the host of issues that have surrounded the oil industry for decades. Have an ongoing dialogue. If managed correctly, this channel could have had a built-in (and larger) group of advocates willing to at least hear the company out. Ask any one who is involved in the word-of-mouth industry: having a fan base counts. But BP didn't do that.

One indicator of how moribund this account has been actually lies in who the brand is following: a mere 39 entities, mostly made up of various other corporate and non-personal accounts within the oil industry. No consumers, apparently, need apply -- even though it's de riguer in the corporate world to follow at least a healthy number of those consumers who are interested enough in what you're doing to follow you. Case in point: @dunkindonuts, which has 51,624 followers and is following 49,685 people.

But now, of course, BP has much bigger problems in front of it then a silly little fake Twitter account, or the lack of a strong Twitter channel of its own. That's a cleanup that will have to wait for another time.

(BTW, don't waste your time looking for an official BP Facebook account, like I did.)