SeaWorld #AskSeaWorld Online Campaign Backfires When Critics Flood Twitter With Posts

Is it true that any kind of publicity is good? SeaWorld is finding out for itself as the company's Twitter campaign drew participants to the conversation it doesn't really want to talk about.

When the #AskSeaWorld campaign was launched, it had the aim of providing interested parties a platform to ask their questions. It's actually a good move in that SeaWorld was making the effort to banish speculations and clarify concerns that may have been raised by Blackfish, a documentary about the life of a killer whale inside the marine park. The documentary was also seen as one of the reasons ticket sales have dropped, so SeaWorld is eager to address the damage it has done.

Not everything, however, goes as planned, most especially when you turn to the same platform your critics have access to. SeaWorld found out the hard way after the #AskSeaWorld campaign was taken over by more of its critics.

The company fired back, saying it was no surprise that animal rights activists have indundated Twitter trying to deny those with real questions the opportunity to have their questions answered.

"it's unfortunate that these people would try to drown out thoughtful and honest answers by flooding social media with repeated questions and troll accounts," SeaWorld wrote in a blog post, adding 70 percent of questions have come from animal rights groups and bots.

Colleen O'Brien, senior director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said it is not true that SeaWorld is being "trolled."

"I think SeaWorld's reaction is an invention designed to explain away a huge mistake on their part in underestimating the strength of public opinion against them," she said.

Denise Lee Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do, said SeaWorld has been under fire for a time, even before the Twitter campaign started, so #AskSeaWorld was not a smart move. It gave people the chance to take over the conversation when what the company really needed to do was influence and shape the narrative as much as they could.

Joe Couceiro, former chief marketing officer of SeaWorld, added that when launching social media campaigns, companies have to remember that it's a two-way street. Opening up a little too much offers others the chance to take a shot at you.

SeaWorld probably had it coming, most especially when it said in the same blog post that it's going to continue providing answers to questions, "even from those who might not support us."

Photo: Josh Hallett | Flickr

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