So far we’ve seen a couple of well–documented cases of big brands using Twitter to reach out to their customers (or at least a small subset of Twittering customers) and ginning up positive PR. But where’s the upside in Exxon Mobil sending someone out to Tweet on its behalf?
Bold move, declared Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang, who noted admiringly that “Janet”, the “community evengilist at ExxonMobil Corp”, was “directly and actively engaging with others” in Twitterland. Like when she defended the Valdez spill with this missive: “”@1WineDude, did you know that the Valdez spill wasn’t even one of the top 10 worst spills in history? Like the Nowruz Oil Field spill in ’80“.
We are still not sure that’s the best approach for Exxon. And, it turns out, neither is Exxon, who says that it has nothing to do with the account, which has now been deactivated. Houston Chronicle:
“That’s not us,” said Alan Jeffers, spokesman for Exxon Mobil.
“Janet” isn’t part of Exxon’s public relations machinery — the company said it has no idea who she is and wasn’t aware of her until the Chronicle called to ask.
The company doesn’t take positions on specific legislative proposals, as “Janet” suggests, Jeffers said and isn’t using mediums such as blogs and social networking sites to communicate with consumers.
At least not yet.
“We’re happy to provide our positions via our Web site and conversations with individuals and groups,” Jeffers said.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah has turned this into a teaching moment, as they say. Rather than simply admitting that he wasted time writing about a fictious Twitterer, Jeremiah explains that the incident points out the need for Exxon Mobil to spend time monitoring its social graph. And he even forces a poor Exxon Mobil flack to agree with him:
What message do you want to give to Janet the supposed company representative?
“Be forth-coming about who you are, it’s ok to be in support for or against something, but you should be forth-coming about your identity”
What lessons have you learned about monitoring your brands in social networks?
“We need to be diligent about what is being said about you, by you, and those pretending to be you”
I see a lot of opportunities for Exxon here, it’s clear the community wants to talk to you, you can roll with this by coming face forward:
“We’re going to examine what is going on, and if indeed if there is anything to do, I want to underscore we’re not trying to prevent anyone from going out. There’s lots of opportunities, we want to speak to people, and to learn what people think”
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