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:
The prankster also began leveraging the popularity of the company's hashtag to build a following and engage with other users.
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.
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.
To combat the prankster, the company spent heavily to promote its own tweets to new users, like the following:
However, the ads were untargeted and invited a pile-on from angry users:
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.
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:
In full retreat, the company started to promote its AngelSoft brand with two hashtag competitions (#SheetHappens and #SheetOutOfLuck) --inviting the following earnest submissions:
"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.