The real lesson of the Burger King hack job.


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As you may have heard, this past Monday morning, a group of hackers “hijacked” Burger King’s official Twitter account (@BurgerKing) and replaced all the BK branding elements with the golden arches of McDonald’s. The hackers then sent out posts on the hijacked account claiming that BK had been sold to McDonald’s, then posted some raunchy posts about customer and employee “reactions” to the fictitious sale. You can get the whole chapter-and-verse on the hack at Mashable.

The hackers'

It didn’t take long to figure this was a hoax, and within a few hours, Twitter suspended the account. And within a day or so, @BurgerKing was once again tweeting out content about Whoppers and Chicken Fries.

An interesting side note: blogger Travis Wright followed the hack in real time, and discovered that the number of Twitter users “following” @BurgerKing went from 77,000 at the start of the day to more than 111,000 within just 90 minutes. Suddenly, getting a Twitter account hijacked proved to be a great way to increase followers by almost 50%.

As you’d expect, over the next few days Twitter got a pretty good spanking from social media heavyweights. The micro-blogging service was berated for offering insufficient security to commercial and branded accounts. But to me, there’s a bigger story at play.

The fact that the hacked account drew more than 37,000 new followers in less than two hours reveals how most Twitterites use the service, and how brands just don’t understand it. People were way more interested in the real-time entertainment value of the hacked account than they ever would be about anything Burger King was tweeting out on behalf of themselves.

In other words, the big “fail” for the Burger King social media team wasn’t that their Twitter account got hacked. It’s that they came up way short in delivering engaging content their customers and fans really care about.

I did a double take when I read that BK started the week with 77,000 followers. That’s a pitifully small number for a visible national brand such as BK (Starbuck’s, by comparison, has around 3.5 million followers). The fact that BK been unsuccessful at getting even their most loyal customers to follow them is an indication of how lame their content has been.

In fairness to Burger King (and Twitter, for that matter), they’re not in this boat alone. The unfortunate truth is that many marketers, who are used to “controlling” their messages via mass media advertising, still see social as a way of pushing branding messages. They are unwilling (or unable) to give up control to an audience that might say…anything. They fail to grasp that social is an opportunity for deeper engagement with people who already ‘like’ them in real life. They neglect their responsibility to provide content that’s relevant, useful and yes, entertaining. Instead, boilerplate management-approved messages get sent out and are for the most part ignored by customers. And brands wonder why their engagement rate on Facebook is less than 0.5%.

I hope the Burger King hack teaches a lesson to brands’ social media teams, but not necessarily the lesson everyone’s talking about. It’s my hope that this serves as a wake-up call to create more compelling content, whatever the platform.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.


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