Greenpeace vs. Shell: The Biggest Social Media Heist Ever?
It first sprang to our attention with photos like the above (our favourite); hilariously bleak stabs at Shell’s policy of drilling for oil in the Arctic. The best thing about it was that it came from the Shell-branded Arctic Ready website, where it seemed the petrol company’s bid for web 2.0 openness had disastrously backfired. So why was the site, covered in satire, still up? Tweets to @ShellIsPrepared, the related account, were mostly answered thusly:
Naturally, an increasing number of tweeps RT’d the Shell community manager’s increasingly catastrophic handling of this comms disaster; he/she was clearly making it worse. Or was he/she?
Fortunately, this rather handy piece in the Sydney Morning Herald summed up the whole campaign rather nicely, and attributed it all to none other than Greenpeace. Looking at the videos which started their attack, plus judging by the organisation’s past lampooning of Nestlé, this campaign has all the hallmarks, but goes several steps further.
Rarely - nay, never - has a brand been so utterly and convincingly hijacked on social media; and what’s more, Greenpeace makes it look easy. And perhaps it is. You don’t have to have a ‘verified’ Twitter account to be believed; and any logos can be copied and reproduced willy-nilly, to make an apparently-official site.
So whilst Greenpeace may be moderately scared of a Shell lawsuit — for now, the oil brand seems to be denying the ecologists the extra publicity that would give them — it’s not just big ‘bad’ business that should be concerned right now. It’s all brands. Because social media is based on trust; and Greenpeace has just demonstrated how easy it is to disrupt and pervert that confidence.
A benchmark case, in more ways than one…
Update: the Arctic Ready site no longer features all the user-generated ads, like the one above. And you can’t make any more on the site. Good job we kept the above one, eh?