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Shell sits out spoof campaign

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Shell is currently sitting tight as a spoof campaign engineered by environmental activists plays out across social media.

The campaign started off with “take-offs” of Shell’s genuine ads, and was followed up by a fake social media response purporting to be from Shell, which has inflamed environmentalists further.

Social media consultant Dianne Bayley says that the Shell “Let’s Go” spoof campaign appears to have been carefully planned and executed.

“I can’t help wondering what a campaign like that would cost the activists responsible for it. In terms of gaining any support for the activists, I only discovered the names of those allegedly responsible after reading through the whole fake campaign – and even then, I wasn’t sure which eco-activists actually put this together,” she adds.

“The campaign was extremely clever, though, especially when one considers that many people believe – and share – everything they read online without doing any further research at all, which is why sites like Snopes.com are quoted by those who will look beyond the ‘online outrage’. I’m not sure this would have had as much impact in any other media platform – online is ideal for this type of message.”

Bayley adds that Shell has responded to the campaign in possibly the only way it could – by doing nothing.

“As has already been discussed in the media, taking the perpetrators to court would merely enhance their campaign and gain more traction for them. Removing posts and websites is also not recommended – it merely starts a new campaign of users posting screenshots and berating companies for not allowing them to have their say.

“With highly charged and sensitive issue like the environment, almost anything Shell could do right now to contain reputation damage would only serve to make things worse and make Shell look defensive. But, while the eco activists have a large following online, there are as many others who will continue to use Shell products anyway.”

She points out that social media is filled with “slacktivists” – people who are happy to pass on the message without leaving their desks, but are unwilling to give up, for instance, the vehicle they drive that is filled with Shell products.

“Clever” almost always goes viral, Bayley adds, and people are more than thrilled to pass on anything vaguely contentious – fact or fiction.

“While comments and posts to various platforms can be managed to a large extent, there’s little that can be done about a carefully co-ordinated launch of a clone site, coupled with Tweets and other social media posts.

“Even if you don’t agree with their methods, you have to take your hat off to the activists for getting their message across. It will be interesting to see whether the courts will allow this kind of sabotage should anyone do it to a company that will take legal action.”