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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

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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:

If you've seen our @Koch_Careers ads on #CNN, and think we have trouble hiring because our company is owned by a**holes, you'd be right!

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

If you've seen our @Koch_Careers ads on #CNN, and think we have trouble hiring because our company is owned by a**holes, you'd be right!

9:59 PM - 31 Jul 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

The work may be mundane, but #WeAreKoch and we take pleasure in the damage we do to the environment and to American democracy.

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

The work may be mundane, but #WeAreKoch and we take pleasure in the damage we do to the environment and to American democracy.

10:07 PM - 31 Jul 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

@Koch_Industries Please include the parts about alleged bribery and trading with Iran. http://t.co/tz28veOS9J #WeAreKoch

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

@Koch_Industries Please include the parts about alleged bribery and trading with Iran. http://t.co/tz28veOS9J #WeAreKoch

10:22 PM - 31 Jul 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Money can't buy you love. A #GOP Senator, on the other hand... http://t.co/gBlObSvsxv #WeAreKoch

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

Money can't buy you love. A #GOP Senator, on the other hand... http://t.co/gBlObSvsxv #WeAreKoch

10:50 PM - 31 Jul 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

7:43 AM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

9:18 AM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

9:49 AM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

1:24 PM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

10:56 AM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

1:54 PM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

11:00 AM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

1:30 AM - 02 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

4:02 PM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

@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!

12:34 PM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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.

9:44 AM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

8:09 AM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

2:50 PM - 01 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

6:45 AM - 04 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

7:01 PM - 03 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

9:55 AM - 03 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

12:32 PM - 03 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

We&#39;re not part of a "vast" right-wing conspiracy. It&#39;s just a small cabal of rich co-conspirators. http://t.co/L0GkqSrltS #KochBrothers

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

11:20 PM - 04 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

1:46 PM - 05 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

11:02 AM - 06 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Charles Koch: Our gov&#39;ts top-down approach to job creation has failed. We need greater incentives to work. 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

9:24 AM - 07 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

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

12:23 AM - 09 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

Anu Anzu@AnuAnzu

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

5:25 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

@Koch_Industries is a satanic cult

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

NearDeathExperience@NDExperience

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

12:26 AM - 09 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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&#39;s ours is ours, what&#39;s yours is negotiable."

X@MrXex

.@Koch_Industries finally saying what you mean. Good for you.

"What's ours is ours, what's yours is negotiable."

11:13 AM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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&#39; ad campaign is working! Today #KochIndustries is juxtaposed with "fascists," "hell," &amp; "lies" instead of "turd" and "puke"!

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

2:21 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Now we&#39;re at "barf", "butts", "blight, &amp; "Stalin"-though getting "Stalin" and "fascist" in one day is pretty impressive! #KochIndustries

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

6:25 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

"How do we reach the few people who don&#39;t associate Koch with lies, greed, fascism, hell, scat, or vomit?" - #KochIndustries #Twitter RFP

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

3:19 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

11:41 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

12:28 AM - 09 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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&#39;t face a backlash from people angry with #Koch. http://t.co/tz28veOS9J

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

4:01 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

8:55 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

In conclusion:

Charles Koch&#39;s money and power may get him a megaphone at USA Today. But, social media is about #peoplepower!

WeAreKochs@WeAreKochs

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

4:08 PM - 08 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

"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.

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