Shamu Twitter Account Abandoned

If you were formerly enjoying the tweetable wit and wisdom of a particular San Antonio-based killer whale, I regret to inform you that he will no longer have access to the company wifi.

Making the necessary call

It was a necessary corporate decision. This latest tragedy was obviously unexpected, but not just for the trainer whose life was taken. That’s the real tragedy. Our sympathies go out to her friends, family, and coworkers.

For the sake of this blog, let’s think a moment how this tragedy affects Sea World from a branding perspective. Sea World had been opertating from a perceived genius social media approach of the tweeting killer whale. Unfortunately, Shamu lived up to his species reputation (whether deserved or not) and has put the company in a bind. Their most popular personality and social media brand is no longer socially acceptable.

When the unexpected happens

What do you do when your mascot kills a person unexpectedly in front of a live audience? Set aside the Shamu Twitter profile for a second. Sea World would still be in a bind. Just use Twitter Search and type “shamu hungry” (without the quotes). You’ll see three pages of tweets from people making jokes about this tragedy. They’re not referencing the Shamu account; but rather, just referencing Shamu the brand / animal.

How will Sea World rebound?

Sea World’s marketing is tied up in the identity and reputation of this killer whale. The theme park is slammed with frenzied restructuring of this marketing, public relations, and merchandizing nightmare.

How will Sea World handle this online reputation crisis? Stay tuned to the news and the interwebs to find out. This will make a very interesting case study for recreation-based ORM.

Up to this point, Sea World has incorporated Twitter, company blog, and YouTube to honor their fallen employee and to address customer concerns. Check out this Orlando Sentinel article for more.

POLL: How are they handling it?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Should Sea World have expressed apologies on the Shamu account, or did they make the right move by just redirecting fans to a non-Shamu site?

About Daniel Dessinger

Daniel joined MarketNet as a Senior Search Marketing Specialist in March 2008. He provides strategy and implementation of search marketing, reputation management, and social media marketing initiatives. Daniel got his start as an online community moderator/manager in 2001. These days, he loves sharing his thoughts and passion for blogging, Twitter, pursuing your purpose, and analytics-based testing. View all posts by Daniel Dessinger
  • Alan

    I think you're overlooking a serious aspect to this horrible killing when you say “Shamu lived up to his species” – Orca whales don't kill humans in the wild. ( The fact that this whale chose to kill a human is a symptom of its being held in extremely binding captivity and has driven the poor animal to desperate acts. And in fact, its not the first time this whale has killed a human at Sea World. Which, from a branding standpoint is something the corporate folks at Sea World knew when they created the twitter account in the first place.

  • DanielthePoet

    Thanks for commenting, Alan. I think you make an important point about the behavior of Orcas in the wild. I've updated the post to read, “Unfortunately, Shamu lived up to his species reputation (whether deserved or not) and has put the company in a bind.”

    I'm not qualified to speak to how habitations and lifestyle at theme parks affect the behavior of killer whales, though, so I won't posit any theories there.

  • Des

    I think they made the right move. I don't think continuing on with a “Shamu” voice is wise right now. At a later date they can start it back up. But there will be too many nay sayers right now. Best to just redirect to Sea World friendly instead of focusing on Shamu since he isn't exactly family friendly right now.

  • DanielthePoet

    I'd be amazed if they actually bring back the Shamu voice. Because ultimately, how much time is adequate to elapse before you use his brand image to sell again? That would be a slap in the face of the fallen woman's friends and family. At least, it seems like it would be to me.

  • Lisa Barone

    I think it was a really important brand decision that Shamu not say anything, not for Sea World but for Shamu. It probably sounds silly, but it's actually really important.

    Shamu has a certain voice and look that has been carefully crafted by the Sea World organization. For him to comment on what's going on would cause him to break character and come into “the real world”. That's not where Sea World wants him and doing so would kill the brand/image he's built. The same way you wouldn't have Big Bird killing a small animal. It goes against everything the character stands for and it would tarnish the image and Big Bird as an evangelist. When you create these characters, you have to honor who they are and their voices. Sea World should comment on the tragedy that took place. However, Shamu should not be involved.

  • DanielthePoet

    I agree, Lisa, with one caveat / question: Big Bird couldn't actually kill a person, while Shamu can/has. With that in mind, do you think Sea World will/could bring back Shamu as a brand with a voice? Does that denigrate the loss of life?

    What is Sea World saying if they keep Shamu as the face of the franchise?

  • Lisa Barone

    Why couldn't Big Bird kill a person? Big Bird is ginormous, he could easily kill something.

    Sea World should absolutely keep Shamu as the voice and face of its brand. It's what people know. Shamu is friendly. He's helpful. He's who every kid comes to see. Is it a tragedy that someone was killed? Of course, but you can't blame Shamu, a character who has been beloved since the 60s. Other trainers have been killed at Sea World. Not to make light but… the show has to go on. It's a risk they know they're putting themselves into. Shamu and his reputation will be what's gonna get you OUT of this mess. You don't touch that.

  • DanielthePoet

    LOL. Um… because Big Bird is a man in a costume, not an animal. Shamu is an actual animal that has killed several people.

  • Lisa Barone


    I meant the “real” Big Bird. Like the character on the show. He could totally sit on a small animal and squish them to death. But they'd never allow him to do that because that's not who Big Bird is.

  • jillbach

    I think that Sea World had positioned themselves in the best situation to deal with this unfortunate tragedy. They did bring human qualities to Shamu by having a Twitter account for him but at the same time they have a blog and a corporate Twitter account @SeaWorld_Parks that speak from a corporate voice. I think that they had already embraced social media and are using these vehicles in a very positive way at this time.

  • Des

    But this isn't the first attack or the first death at Sea World and they keep bringing back the brand. They will. I give it a year…. or less.

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