Categories: Social Media

Social media and the oil spill disaster

BP agrees to record settlement

Almost five years after the explosion of The Deepwater Horizon in Gulf of Mexico – also referred to as the BP oil spill – BP and five Gulf states has announced a massive settlement that resolves years of legal fighting over the environmental and economic damage done by the energy giant’s oil spill in 2010.

Uncertainties remain, including the cost of claims from businesses and individuals who opted out of the settlement that BP agreed with plaintiffs’ lawyers in 2012. Some who were not covered by that settlement – including workers in the oil industry who were affected when the Obama administration decided to shut down drilling in the Gulf – have also launched legal actions.

BP’s estimate of $54 billion for the identified costs of the disaster is proportionate to ExxonMobil’s figure of $4.3bn for the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989, given that BP is thought to have spilt about 12 times as much oil. But that is not the only different. Dealing with a crisis has totally changed! Why? Two words: Social media

Social media and the oil spill disaster


Jamie Orlando, a host of an Internet radio show called SomaCow, wrote and recorded a song parody of Lady Gaga`s “Bad Romance” called “Big Oilmance”.

Big Oilmance - Lady Gaga Parody


YouTube users where uploading a steady stream of videos about the oil spill.

UCB Comedy did show what might happen if a cup of coffee spills during an executive meeting at BP headquarters and how well coordinated they work together to clean up the spill. On YouTube the video got over 12 million views.

Sir, I think we may be underestimating the size of the spill

Don’t worry, it’s a small spill on a very large table

UCB Comedy pick-up statements from BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward Hayward’s that played down the crisis:

The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume

I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.



An anonymously managed Twitter account – BP Public Relations (@BPGlobalPR) – did make glib comments, purportedly on BP’s behalf, had at the peak 185.000 followers:

Negative people view the ocean as half empty of oil. We are dedicated to making it half full. Stay positive America!

We are starting a movement to fix the oil leak. Just mail your garbage to New Orleans and we’ll take it from there. The bigger the better!


Through the Facebook page “Flash Protest of BP’s Oil Hemorrhage” a flash mob was arranged at the BP station on Houston and Lafayette in New York City.

Protesters waved signs

Clean up, don’t cover up” and chanted “BP your heart is black, you can have your oil back

A Facebook group called “Boycott BP,” was urging a worldwide boycott of all BP brands and services, did drawn more than 836.000 fans at the peak.


Greenpeace, initiated a “Rebrand the BP Logo” contest. Greenpeace asked its supporters to “ . . . create a logo for BP which shows that the company is not ‘beyond petroleum’ – they’re up to their necks in tar sands and deepwater drilling.

Black oil Firefox plugin

The Black Oil Firefox plugin that aims to black out all mentions of BP (British Petroleum) across the web. The plugin replaces all mentions (case insensitive) of BP and accompanying terms like BP oil, BP gas, BP worldwide, and so on, with blacked out letters and dripping oil drops.

The Halloween attack

An oil-stained BP uniform is the Halloween outfit for 2010.

BP T-Shirts

From online communities to offline issue: “We´re bringing oil to the American Shores” (“Wir bringen das Öl an die amerikanische Küste”)


And let’s not forget the Greenpeace attack against BP. Shutting down every BP petrol station in London.

Short URL & title:
Social media and the oil spill disaster —
Share it:
If you enjoyed this article, please take 5 seconds to share it on your social network. Thanks!

Torben Rick

Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement, development and change management. International experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and United Kingdom

Recent Posts

Once upon a time – The impact of disruption

The impact of disruption on business models - Disruption is changing the value propositions for…

1 year ago

Change Management might be dead – Let’s go and have a nice funeral

Change management is obsolete - Change management is broken - Change management isn't applicable anymore.…

2 years ago

Without a crisis no organizational change

Companies need a crisis to change Organizations need to be able to make dramatic adjustments…

2 years ago

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – Fix it anyway

Is there something profoundly wrong with some of the basic assumptions about how change works?…

2 years ago

Why does organizational change fail

Changing something across the entire organization is a big deal, and a big commitment. Six…

2 years ago

When corporate cultures breed dishonesty

Many of the corporate scandals in the past several years have been cases of wide-scale…

3 years ago