It’s easier to say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery when said imitation portrays you in a positive light. Rarely, however, do parody accounts seek to flatter their muses. Let’s take a deeper look into the types of parody accounts and how to deal with them.
The Obvious Parody
This parody can either be flattering or defamatory depending on the creator. Some, like @BPGlobalPR, are meant to call out people or corporations and keep their names at the forefront of our minds.
— BP Public Relations (@BPGlobalPR) August 19, 2011
@BPGLobalPR followed BP through the Deepwater Horizon crisis in 2010. They would follow a news story about BP rushing to save the pelicans with a tweet about how BP is saving the pelicans with more oil and fishing lines. All of BP’s PR efforts to help their image would be picked apart and attacked by the parody account.
Not all parodies are bad. The Queen of England currently has a very popular parody of her. Yes, the remarks can be biting and sarcastic, but it’s not out of hostility towards her royal highness. It’s a persona and meant to be fun.
Bollocks. Just answered the phone to Mr Cameron. That’s one New Year resolution broken. Force of habit.
— Elizabeth Windsor (@Queen_UK) January 2, 2014
Solution: If the Tweets are benign, let the account live. Actually, engaging with this parody might make someone’s day. If the Tweets are hostile, your best bet is to keep moving forward with your strategy and ignore the account. Trying to censor them won’t paint you in a positive light.
The Defamatory Parody
This is one of the more serious parody offenses as the offending party is seeking to directly mimic the account in order to make them look bad. This account uses the same logo, matches the same tone, and even links to the same news articles. It’s meant to legitimately confuse Twitter users into following them so they can spread their message against the organization.
According to Social News Daily, this is the parody account that the UK Department of Work and Pensions is currently battling. The verified handle is @DWPgovuk but handles @UKJCP and @Director_JCP are tweeting as the organization. (DWP is short for Department of Work and Pensions, which runs Job Centre Plus or JCP.)
The logo that they’re using is almost identical – they changed plus to pus because that‘s what trolls do – and they are creating fake Tweets while still using the acronym RT. This means the users who follow the account already dislike the DWP and will believe the retweets as truth. This leads to an angry audience that’s actively spreading false information.
@UKJCP Can you stop RT tweets we have not written – it is not satire and is confusing to customers. It also exceeds your twitter agreement
— DWP (@DWPgovuk) January 22, 2014
Unfortunately, the social media manager behind the account is handling the parody poorly. They engaged with the trolls by dryly asking them to cease and desist – as government officials tend to do. This has caused several Twitter users to attack the DWP and twist every possible word against them. Right now they’re continuing to move forward with their social strategy to push down the defamatory Tweets.
Solution: Do not feed the trolls. You will not win. Use Twitter’s ‘Report Abuse‘ button if the abusive Tweets get bad, but your best bet is to keep posting your content and spreading your message accurately.
Do you remember when Mitt Romney made a comment at a debate during the 2012 election saying he had whole “binders full of women” to hire? Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts were created immediately making fun of the presidential candidate’s flub.
Obviously no one who followed @Romney_Binder actually thought they were following the binder of Mitt Romney. Yes, the Tweets made him look bad, but they didn’t single-handedly cost him the election.
Oprah. Gotta get her in the binder. #bindersfullofwomen
— Romney’s Binder (@Romney_Binder) October 17, 2012
Where are the accounts now? Most have been deactivated or are lying unused throughout the Twitterverse. Romney’s binders full of women are gathering dust next to Angelina Jolie’s leg.
My new business venture: setting up a charm school for artificial legs!
— Angelina Jolie’s Leg (@AngelinaJoliesL) July 24, 2012
Solution: Wait for the news to blow over. In a few weeks or months the parody will lay dormant and no one will remember it.
These accounts are typically created by guys living in their mom’s basement. Why should you try to be interesting and build a following organically when you can use a big name of someone who isn’t on Twitter yet?
Bill Clinton is a great example. He was a late adopter to Twitter which meant @BillClinton was already taken. The account has a picture of Clinton and roughly 14,000 follows. The president chose @billclinton for his handle and has acquired more than 1.5 million followers since joining the social network.
Dr. King reminded us that we are all part of “an inescapable network of mutuality.” We cannot go forward if we don’t do it together. #MLKDay
— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) January 20, 2014
Solution: If you have been parodied, apply for verification. This will help your fans know who the real you is.
Memes Come and Go
When you learn that you’re being parodied, do your research to evaluate how hostile the account is. When in doubt, let the parody live. Eventually the account owner will get bored or the hype will die down.