Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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February 18, 2013

WhopperGate: Analysis & Discussion regarding Burger King’s Social Media Hacking Case

When you think of hacking, what comes to mind first?  Well,you may think of the term has been an act with malicious intent – which is correct.  However, I just found out there is another definition attributed to hacking, and it is figuring out new ways to approach and use products.  This has been a case for consumer groups such as Ikea Hackers, which is an online community where people come together to repurpose and share modifications of Ikea products. We have seen this approach with doing more with less with the current term floating around social media and marketing/PR circles for “growth hackers.” There is a mindset where people are asked to do more with less – which is something we are seeing across industries and societies today in 2013.

However, the first definition of hacking is what we have seen today with one of the prominent fast food chains, Burger King. Burger King’s french fries and whopper may be looking soggy today after their social media troubles from today.  It appears that their Twitter account was hacked and changed to McDonald’s.  The tweets emerging from the site emerged as it became a viral topic people, news outlets, bloggers, and others were sharing and posting about via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Their Twitter account was shortly suspended due to this hack to their site.

I would say that Dave Fleet wrote an excellent post about what happened with Burger King by simply stating – take a chill pill everyone.  Yes, Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked, but this is something that could have been foreseen by the social media managers ahead of time.  Dave raises some good points here - but another thing we really don’t know is how BK found about this crisis and if they have a social media command center internally that caught this action.  This would be interesting to explore.

What is interesting is the fact that this may have been an opportunity for other brands to jump on board with this “newsjacking” opportunity, but they decided not to.  McDonalds had a response related to their situation on their Twitter site that basically stated ” Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking.”

This is what has to be done when you are looking any type of environment – both digital and offline – you have to determine what are the risks, challenges, and possible situations you can be faced with as a strategic communicator.  It was interesting to see how many media outlets and other bloggers jumped on board with this and the internet memes and reactions online came rolling in.

What crisis communicators involved with social media may have to keep in mind in this type of situation is to look at the facts, review all of the activity coming in about the company, determine if there is going to be any reputational damage for the brand, and come away with some lessons learned from this experience. We also have to be aware of the increase presence of cyber attacks and risks associated with having a digital presence. Last thing, this is another case where BK has an opportunity to share their story about what is going on and what they are going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Today, BK is the poster child for brand social media hacks, but who will be next?  Brands and crisis communicators need to work together to make sure no one else has to experience this type of situation and we are able to be proactive in addressing these risks and challenges.

With this case, what we can take away from this incident with BK is that brands are targets for these types of hacks, so we have to add this type of scenario as one to prepare social media teams in case this happens to them.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,

Karen

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