In yesterday’s post, I noted activists are becoming increasingly creative and innovative with their use of the Internet, particularly social media, to draw blood from their targets. This is still a relatively new phenomenon, that digital campaigns occur in place of those in the real world (I like how Mitch Joel refers to real world as meat space to acknowledge digital is every bit as real world as the physical world is).

Greenpeace has been particularly effective with the use of digital tools in their sorties. You might recall their campaign against Nestlé’s use of palm oil in its Kit Kat candy bars. That effort included a video and a slew of coordinated criticism published to the Kit Kat Facebook Fan Page. It didn’t help Nestlé that the administrator of its Fan Page mishandled the situation. It was like a digital sit in, taking place on one of Nestlé’s online properties.

Contrast that with the recent Greenpeace campaign against Shell. That took place almost entirely in virtual space. It was certainly space that didn’t exist before the campaign. True, Greenpeace posted the video to YouTube. The rest was all fictitious. Or virtual.

The so-called Shell event in Seattle’s Space Needle? Virtual (though it was actually staged in the actual Space Needle).

The microsite made to look like one of Shell’s digital properties? Virtual.

The Arctic Ready ad campaign by Shell? Virtual.

The initial criticism drawing panicked response from the faux-official @ShellIsPrepared Twitter account? Virtual.

There was an entire virtual crisis before any real crisis took hold. Which means, once again, the tides are in constant change. If you can afford to be creative through resources unconstrained by tradition or regulation, you can cause a lot of headaches (even haemorrhaging) without requiring your own life jacket or safety harness.

Photo: headless uploaded to Flickr by gega.1024.