The #AskChevron tweets seek to draw attention to the sponsoring activist group’s environmental concerns and could be a sign of things to come for brands and marketers.
At first blush, the hashtag #AskChevron might appear to be another case of interactive marketing gone awry.
Instead, however, the hashtag was being promoted by environmental group the Toxic Effect this week to coincide with Chevron's 2014 Annual Meeting of Stockholders in Midland, Texas.
Tweets with the hashtag include, "#AskChevron about their polluting practices around the globe. Demand an answer. #Chevron is listening," and "We are now face to face with Chevron's executives and stockholders. What's your request? #AskChevron."
The tweets began appearing on May 27 and were trending on May 28.
While other figures were more modest, one #AskChevron tweet had 1,800 retweets as of May 29.
Toxic Effect, which has 12,000 followers on Twitter, also promoted a page on its website that invites consumers to leave a message for Chevron's executives and stockholders.
Also as of May 29, Chevron had not responded publicly to the campaign.
That might not have been the best way to handle the situation, at least according to some experts.
Lisa Buyer, president and chief executive (CEO) of interactive public relations and social agency The Buyer Group, says brands in this situation should respond immediately because "it is an opportunity to stay in the conversation."
According to a blog post, the Toxic Effect also sponsored Anti-Chevron International Day on May 21.
"For this special day, popular mobilizations in at least 10 countries around the world are scheduled to take place, aiming to demand that the U.S. oil company change its practices and take responsibility for the serious environmental crimes committed on the planet throughout Chevron-Texaco's history," the post says.
According to the Toxic Report, organizations supporting Anti-Chevron International Day include the Union of People Affected by Chevron-Texaco Petroleum Operations in Ecuador; the Mapuche Confederation of Neuquen in Argentina; Richmond Progressive Alliance, Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Gayle McLaughlin, mayor of Richmond, California; Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre in Nigeria; and the communities of Vaslui, Romania.
A rep for Toxic Effect says the #AskChevron campagin takes advantage of "the repercussion and doubts that the last-moment decision to change the location of the annual stakeholder meeting generated; we [decided] to do a digital [campaign] with no location and limits."
The promoted tweets gave all consumers the opportunity to question the decisions and practices of Chevron, the Toxic Effect rep adds.
"I think it is a pretty smart and savvy way to gain attention to a protest or any news," Buyer says of #AskChevron. "From a protester's standpoint, it's branded, optimized, personalized, and newsworthy with a built-in viral effect. I am sure there will be many more copycat-like scenarios. It's the social media version of picketing but without geographic and physical boundaries."
Twitter declined to comment.
In an email, a Chevron rep writes, "We view this as nothing more than inconsequential noise. The time and money spent on this stunt would be better spent helping the people these groups claim to represent. Those who continue to advance the fraudulent claims against Chevron are not being transparent or honest."
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In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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