[Andrew’s Editor notes: Since the writing of this article, @MayorFontana has changed the communications on his twandle to be clear it is a fake account and not run by Mayor Joe Fontana.]
Metro London ran an interesting local story yesterday – No, that’s not really @MayorFontana.
Somebody (who’s not Mayor Fontana) created the twandle @MayorFontana and began posting tweets that would certainly have you think he was the Worship himself.
I’m not sure of the motive behind the effort because it violates Twitter’s Rules.
We’ll likely see the account deleted by Twitter soon.
You can’t impersonate another with the intention, “to mislead, confuse, or deceive others.”
I think a lot of people try to repeat the success of the BP fake parody account last year.
Basically, after the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, BP didn’t have a Twitter account, so an anonymous person created an account called @BPGlobalPR and began tweeting satirical news updates on BP’s efforts to clean up the oil spill.
It picked up steam.
By the time BP registered their own twandle and got to 10,000 followers, the fake parody account was already at 120,000.
As of today’s writing, @BPGlobalPR has 166,114 followers whereas the official BP America account has 29,804.
Why the parody BP account is still around and the fake Mayor Fontana will likely be deleted by the social network, is one exists to cause humour, while the other exists to deceive the public.
It’s sort of like why Jay Leno and other comedians rarely get successfully sued. Everybody knows their joking.
Now for those motivated to successfully create fake accounts, this may seem like the golden answer to triumph and giggles in this niche twitter hobby.
You’ll notice these accounts succeed in amassing followers, not because they’re satirical and sarcastic in nature, but that they take advantage of a PR situation that has gotten the public’s attention (rage).
I’ll use Kenneth Cole as a second example.
Last year, during the Egypt revolt, Cole tweeted out:
“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumour is our new spring collection is now available online”
Consumers forgot Egypt for a day and revolted on Kenneth Cole.
One person created a twandle called @KennethColePR and deployed a similar content strategy to that of @BPGlobalPR. Although this twandle was eventually offered to be sold back for a donation to a charity, the account had first accumulated over 10,000 followers before doing so.
With all this said, I have two take aways from this Mayor Fontana Twitter story: one for the fake twandle hobbyists out there and one for brands and public figures.
First, for the fake twandle hobbyists, I recommend asking yourself, “If the media ever found out my identity and did a story on my actions, what would the public (and my Mom) think of me?”
The owner of @BPGlobalPR might be met with applause and PR/social media contracts. Would impersonating public figures for the sake of deceiving the public be met with the same accolades?
Trolling is only fun until you get caught.
Second, for brands and public figures, people will be less likely to impersonate and harm your brand if you’re already strongly positioned in the digital media space.
The biggest lesson of all here is that the world is now digital.
It’s no longer advantageous for any brand to not be present and active in the digital space. If for no other reason than to control how your brand is shaped, versus giving the creative direction to others.
Although Mayor Fontana is active on Facebook, the question I pose is: If he had a twitter account, would someone have even thought of creating a second one?
If you want more of these web design and social media marketing thoughts delivered to your inbox for free, you can subscribe here.
Andrew Schiestel is the Chief of WOW! Projects at tbk Creative, a web design & social marketing agency that instigates and accelerates consumer action around brands. To contact Andrew about speaking at your upcoming web marketing & communications event, click here. Andrew can be followed on Twitter here.