Cleaning Up the Gulf With Twitter
by Elizabeth Schwarz — University of California, Riverside
July 20, 2010 – 00:01
How do messages of 140 characters or less influence change?
Twitter is a microblogging website that allows users to communicate by sending messages that are 140 characters or less. Leroy Stick (the pseudonym of the individual behind the fake Twitter account, BP Global PR) created a satirical Twitter account a month after the Deep Horizon oil spill out of frustration of the lack of action by BP. @BPGlobalPR has close to 200,000 followers and is found on over 6,000 Twitter lists. The verified BP account has almost 20,000 followers and is found on just over 1,000 Twitter lists.
In a way, Stick created a new identity for BP on Twitter. The Twitter bio states, "This page exists to get BP’s message and mission statement out into the twitterverse!" In addition to the countless satirical tweets describing the situation as it unfolds, Stick critically appropriated the BP logo, transforming the familiar green and yellow sunburst into a darker version of itself with drops of what appears to be oil falling from the black burst.
Stick revealed, "I started off just making jokes at their expense with a few friends, but now it has turned into something of a movement. … People are sharing billboards, music, graphic art, videos and most importantly information." But will the frustrations voiced and information shared on Twitter be catalysts for change? So far, the account has raised over $20,000 for the Gulf Restoration Network through donations and purchases of BP Cares t-shirts. The account also promotes BP Cares Art Shows occurring across the country that raise money for the Gulf.
Many environmental activists call for systemic changes – can actions like those taken by @BPGlobalPR lead to the changes activists believe are necessary? For now, Stick gives companies the following advice, "You know the best way to get the public to respect your brand? Have a respectable brand. Offer a great, innovative product and make responsible, ethical business decisions."
You can donate to the Gulf Restoration Network at www.healthygulf.org