The Oil Leak Has Been Plugged, But The Talk Continues

On April 20th an explosion occurred on British Petroleum’s (BP) oil drilling rig known as Deepwater Horizon. The explosion caused Deepwater Horizon to sink into the ocean, which in turn broke a pipe causing oil to leak into The Gulf of Mexico. This leak went on for about three months and is being dubbed one of the worst man-made disasters ever. Last Thursday BP finally managed to plug the pipe and stop the oil from flowing out into the ocean.

If you saw any kind of media around this oil spill you may have noticed BP was taking a lot of criticism from everywhere. We thought it would be interesting to see how this event affected their public image in the online social space using our social media monitoring and analytics platform, MAP.

In order to get a fair assessment, we broke our study into three separate time periods; the beginning of the year up to the date of the oil rig explosion (April 20th), the period the leak went on for (April 20 – July 15) and the past week since they plugged the leak.

From the beginning of the year until April 20th there was no shortage of talk going on around BP. Looking at this time period we can see that BP was mentioned in almost 93,000 blog posts, over 202,000 forum posts and in about 244,000 tweets. In this time period we also can see that BP was in good favour of those discussing them with a 76% overall favourable sentiment rating.

Then the day of the explosion came. On April 20th Deepwater Horizon sank and oil started to pour out of the well into the Gulf of Mexico until it was finally plugged up almost three months later. During this time the world couldn’t stop talking about the British oil giant. In the course of this period there were around 602,000 blog posts, 860,000 forum messages and a whopping 4.6 million tweets. This time period also saw their favourable sentiment percentage drop more than 20%. The most drastic change here comes from the negative sentiment around BP rising from 22% to 46%.

Now that the leak has been capped and the oil has stopped flowing into the ocean, there might be speculation that talk and criticism of British Petroleum may have calmed down. Our analysis shows that this not the case. Granted, the leak was only capped a week ago, but talk about it has not seemed to slow down. In the past week there has been over 55,000 blog posts, 42,000 forum mentions and almost 528,000 tweets about BP. Most interesting is that there were more tweets about the company in this last week than there were in the first four months of the year. Also, despite the worst being over (the actual leaking), the overall sentiment of BP has not changed much. The overall sentiment rating still stands at 54% favourable. However, while negative sentiment has not gone down, we did see a slight rise in their positive sentiment from 16% to 19%.

With their positive sentiment on the rise it will be interesting to look again at these numbers in a few months to give a roughly equal time period of measurement and to let the clean up of the spill take it’s affect on both the Gulf of Mexico and the general public talking about it. If BP handles the next few months properly, they may be able to swing the public’s opinion back in their favour. Only time will tell.