Last week, SeaWorld launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #AskSeaWorld that, predictably, quickly went south, as this Mashable article by Molly Lynch noted. When companies solicit the Twitterverse’s questions like this and they don’t get the response they want, it is often simply a result of a poorly thought-through campaign.

As I discussed on this week’s Beyond Social Media Show podcast, I don’t think that’s the case in this instance:

SeaWorld, of course, has been the subject of a great deal of criticism since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which explores how the killer whales at the amusement parks are treated.

While the response on Twitter to the #AskSeaWorld campaign was large, the majority of the responses were critical and negative.


A check at Topsy shows that during the past seven days, there were more than 59,000 tweets that used the #AskSeaWorld hashtag.

#AskSeaWorld Tweets - Topsy Analytics

Click To Enlarge

I think whoever was behind this knew very well that they were going to incur the wrath of Twitterville but the real objective was to fish (sorry, couldn’t resist) for some positive and supportive comments they could use in combating the backlash over the Blackfish documentary.

Select responses are being posted on the Ask.SeaWorldCares.com site. Predictably, the site is framed entirely in SeaWorld’s favor. SeaWorld is clearly trying to control the conversation. A few examples:

SeaWorld Cares - Blackfish Response

Notice that the site does not link back to the account of the original questioner, who is cited only as “Liesel (Maryland)”, so there is no way to follow-up with the person who Asked SeaWorld.

The following screenshot shows a question many people are asking:

Ask SeaWorld Cares - Why Have Former Trainers Spoken Out Against SeaWorld

SeaWorld wants it to appear they are tackling the question head-on by posting on their own site, but the response belies the fact that they didn’t answer the question.

And that, in a nutshell, is why this campaign is problematic. They are fighting back but they are not directly answering legitimate questions people are posing. Having the world’s information at your fingertips tends to make for much more informed and savvy consumers who can see through attempts at spin.

Ultimately, trying to frame and control the conversation without directly addressing legitimate questions and complaints will only serve to further erode credibility.