Promoted

Unbelievably Epic Social Media Mega-Fail (#WeAreKoch)

How a social media complement to feel-good TV ads promoting a company’s wholesome American image ended up focusing people on the company’s ethical lapses and fringe politics—and left its trademark search page dominated by a picture of the gates to Auschwitz

Previous social media fails like #McDStories may have left users with a bad taste in their mouth, but it is hard to imagine a bigger fail than Koch Industries’ efforts. To be fair, it’s challenging to whitewash a brand that many people associate with election shenanigans, but it is hard to imagine a worse social media fail.

In conjunction with the company’s national TV blitz, viewers were directed to the #WeAreKoch hashtag. However, a prankster registered the @WeAreKochs username for use as a parody, and unleashed a torrent of insulting and hysterical posts pointing out the company’s ethical lapses and fringe politics, concurrent with the TV media blitz. The posts struck a chord with users, who retweeted at a strong pace despite the account’s initial lack of following. That left the hashtag populated with posts like:

Come work for us. It's not like our owners browbeat you into sharing their political beliefs...Oh! http://t.co/M8Xm9cx0YO #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

#ClimateChange not only fact we've tried to refute. Charles allegedly funded Holocaust denier James Martin.http://t.co/xIEPrb1awS #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Let's be clear: we are *NOT* #Libertarian. We are only self-interested opportunists who buy influence! http://t.co/aMG1S8zwis #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Instead, believe our multi-million dollar ad campaign! #WeAreKoch #KochIndustries

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Why all the haters? We have a Constitutional right to fund front groups to promote policies that we don't want tied back to us. #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Stop "shining sunlight" on us! If we wanted sunlight, we wouldn't release ~200kT/yr of atmospheric carbon! http://t.co/OwabmmCiTo #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Thanks for following us (for free). We normally have to pay good money to buy fake "grassroots" support. http://t.co/NAUcpNeGlp #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Koch Industries: Proudly poisoning your air, water, and politics since 1940. #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

We promise you that our http://t.co/Wrloo6LJRZ website is just as truthful as our "pants on fire" campaign ads. #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

The prankster also began leveraging the popularity of the company’s hashtag to build a following and engage with other users.

@GoodbyeKoch It was $134M over *5 years*, <<1% of our combined net worth. You make it sound like it was a lot of money! "Gushing", geesh!

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

@USCBryan Thanks! We lobby for tax cuts that enrich ourselves, merely to shrink govt & cut services to everyone else--a true public service.

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

@twobook More lies from our detractors! You absolutely *can* polish a turd. http://t.co/0YQBt78Hes #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

@kneanews Politifact is biased against us! The "pants on fire" claims should be listed as merely "false." http://t.co/59cClA9C5l #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Worst of all, the prankster posted a link to a news story that went somewhat viral, causing its image of Chinese people in facemasks, obscured by smog, and the caption “China’s toxic air pollution resembles nuclear winter, scientists say” to dominate the timeline.

We hate the EPA and the Clean Air Act. We want the facemask to be as fashionable here as it is in China. http://t.co/HNAY434M5t #WeAreKoch

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

The rogue then began polluting the other hashtags that the company had pre-seeded with “sanctioned” content, bolstered by the army of followers that company-directed traffic to the initial hashtag helped him amass.

So, we stole oil; our "negligence and malice" never killed anyone...except for those two teens in Texas. http://t.co/OZOMCUe4TR #KochFacts

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Ben Franklin said "a small leak will sink a great ship." But, after 300+ leaks, we only got an #EPA fine! http://t.co/OvRR3cCw2x #KochFacts

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

A preview of the curriculum at the new Emporia State University #Koch Center for Leadership and Ethics we funded. https://t.co/RWu6pg0HI4

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

We're not part of a "vast" right-wing conspiracy. It's just a small cabal of rich co-conspirators. http://t.co/L0GkqSrltS #KochBrothers

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

At #KochIndustries, all #internKOCH interviewees enjoy a reading of A Modest Proposal, followed by a course of our delicious homemade stew.

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

To combat the prankster, the company spent heavily to promote its own tweets to new users, like the following:

Charles Koch believes that when it comes to creating opportunities for all Americans, we can do better. Read more http://t.co/H9bY0iQXZ3

— Koch Industries (@Koch_Industries)

Charles Koch: Our gov'ts top-down approach to job creation has failed. We need greater incentives to work. http://t.co/H9bY0iQXZ3

— Koch Industries (@Koch_Industries)

However, the ads were untargeted and invited a pile-on from angry users:

Oh look, the greedy company trying to destroy the state of Tennessee has paid to be in my mentions. Hello @Koch_Industries

— Tennessee Tuxedo (@tntux)

Do we really needs lessons on the importance of hard work from those that inherit their wealth? @Koch_Industries

— Anu Anzu (@AnuAnzu)

@Koch_Industries is a satanic cult

— A D (@kaosad2012)

@kaosad2012 @WeAreKochs @Koch_Industries Satan has issued a press release stating the Koch Bros. are too Evil for him to associate with.

— NearDeathExperience (@NDExperience)

The coup-de-grace was scored by X’s tweet “Finally saying what you mean. Good for you” with an attached picture of the Auschwitz gate.

.@Koch_Industries finally saying what you mean. Good for you. "What's ours is ours, what's yours is negotiable."

— X (@MrXex)

The picture was in the top left position for much of August 8th for a search for Koch Industries. At this point, even the original rogue felt bad for Koch and started giving them marketing tips:

Koch Industries' ad campaign is working! Today #KochIndustries is juxtaposed with "fascists," "hell," & "lies" instead of "turd" and "puke"!

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Now we're at "barf", "butts", "blight, & "Stalin"-though getting "Stalin" and "fascist" in one day is pretty impressive! #KochIndustries

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

"How do we reach the few people who don't associate Koch with lies, greed, fascism, hell, scat, or vomit?" - #KochIndustries #Twitter RFP

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

Our brand association study yielded the new Koch Industries logo. - #KochIndustries (Credit: http://t.co/eCBBNWmKZV)

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

If Congress is polling worse than head lice, I think #Koch_Industries is somewhere between #Smallpox and Ebola.

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

In full retreat, the company started to promote its AngelSoft brand with two hashtag competitions (#SheetHappens and #SheetOutOfLuck) —inviting the following earnest submissions:

Koch Industries is #SheetOutOfLuck if they think #AngelSoft won't face a backlash from people angry with #Koch. http://t.co/tz28veOS9J

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

#SheetHappens, like being found "guilty of negligence and malice" in a "fatal explosion." (Koch owns GP/#AngelSoft) http://t.co/a1nbktufpo

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

In conclusion:

Charles Koch's money and power may get him a megaphone at USA Today. But, social media is about #peoplepower!

— WeAreKochs (@WeAreKochs)

“If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”

— Emile Zola

Originally posted to Storify. Republished, in abbreviated form, to BuzzFeed by original Author.

Via storify.com

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