Wisdom.Applied Wednesday: The Terror of a Twitter Hack

Almost all of us have been victimized by this: you accidentally left your Facebook or Twitter account open somewhere public, and someone hacked it. Maybe they changed your birthday or wrote an embarrassing status or tweet. The truth is, hacked social media accounts happen all the time, and large companies are not that much more protected than the poor guy who leaves his phone unlocked in front of his frat brothers. Several different and large corporations have felt the embarrassment of a hacked Twitter account from U.S. Airways and Cadillac to KitchenAid and Burger King. This Wisdom.Applied Wednesday, we’ll highlight that while hacks can create negative buzz, the PR isn’t always bad (unless of course, the hijack was a hoax).

Sure, as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity, but how true is that statement really? Last July, news broke that Chipotle purposely hacked its Twitter account in an attempt to create buzz for its 20th anniversary and gain followers; reactions were mixed. Although Chipotle claimed it gained 4,000 new followers on its Twitter account from the fake hack, it came at some cost. The brand sacrificed a little thing called trust.

This in turn leads me to think that social media, more than anything, is about trust. In the digital world, credibility and reputation is everything, and once that’s destroyed, it’s very difficult to regain that trust back. It didn’t look good that Chipotle so easily breached the trust with its followers for a petty advertising campaign, but a year later, the hoax is pretty forgotten among consumers. But should it be? This was a classic case of crying wolf, and I think it was a poor route for brands to follow (much like the JC Penny Super Bowl Tweets). Any business with a Twitter account should respect and understand there’s some social responsibility with social media. Trust is Trump. It doesn’t bode well that Chipotle so easily faked and then admitted to their Twitter hack. How should consumers trust Chipotle for any future statements?

Whether you agree with the Chipotle’s strategy or not, from a marketing and objective standpoint, Chipotle pulled off a successful campaign; they obtained and surpassed their Twitter following goal and gained immense additional coverage.

There are lessons to be learned here, and although Chipotle may have succeeded, they failed in a very equal fashion. So in the end, is it worth the risk?

Cover Photo Source: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Kevin is a Junior Executive at SJG. He is currently working towards a degree in Advertising and a minor in Spanish at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Outside the office, you can be sure he’s commuting back and forth to Champaign for other work with his radio station at school.