We’ve all had bad days at the office. For most of us, this involves boo boos or faux pas that are, overall, pretty minor. Like a crippling copier paper jam or getting busted surfing Etsy for that perfect hand-made, artisinal red doodle coin purse.
Unless you’re the Burger King social media team (or agency). Then your bad day at the office consists of Anonymous hacking the official @BurgerKing Twitter handle, changing all of the branding to rival McDonald’s logos and imagery and tweeting somewhat racist, racy and generally offensive material to your 77,000 followers.
So, yes, you’re Burger King. Here’s the bad news: your Twitter account was hacked, you tweeted out a bunch of nasty stuff and you’re the laughingstock of the internet. Here’s the good news: in the approximately 75-90 minutes that your account was being actively hacked, you gained almost 35,000 new followers (thanks, Travis Wright), your brand awareness skyrocketed and you have an opportunity to engage with customers – new and old – unlike any you’ve had since the “Subservient Chicken” days.
Yesterday’s Burger King hack offers some great lessons for all brands to learn should they fall prey to the whims of Anonymous or any other hacking threat that results in temporary loss of control of social properties.
Lesson #1: Have A Good Password. Duh.
It’s been reported that Anonymous hacked Burger King’s profile due to an alleged password of…no, really…”whopper123″. Wow. It must’ve been “let the intern name the password” day at Burger King when the Twitter account was established.
(Also courtesy of Travis Wright) – Burger King could’ve simply used the Norton Password Generator. But, no matter what you use, make sure your password is a good one. And keep close track of who has access and have strict rules on sharing the password. Like…write it down and immediately burn it after reading.
Lesson #2: Be Sympathetic
After the hack, which replaced all Burger King branding with McDonald’s, all eyes were on Mickey D’s to see how they would respond. They responded with kindness and sympathy. It’s the honorable thing to do when your rival is getting dragged through the mud. Good move, McDonald’s. They reassured folks that it wasn’t their fault and that they sympathized. Classy and measured. That’s the way to go.
Lesson #3: Social Media Crises Can Be Brand Boosters
To reiterate, as a result of the hack, Burger King’s twitter following increased by approximately 30%…in about an hour. And, sure, most of those folks were cyber-rubber-neckers coming to gawk at the digital vandalism Anonymous was wreaking on Burger King’s twitter feed…but I guarantee they left thinking about Burger King.
The point is, everybody knew that this was the work of a hacker (or hackers) and that Burger King was the victim here. None of the offensive material spewed out on the Twitter feed was actually going to stick to the brand. If anything, being the mark of hackers is badge of honor online. If you matter enough to be hacked, then at least you matter. And, at the end of the day, though the internet may have some fun at your expense, most folks will end up just shaking their heads, having a moment’s entertainment at your expense and, generally, feeling sorry for you. IF YOU…
Lesson #4: Take It Like A Big Brand
Which means, no whining, no blaming, no mewling. Take your whuppin’ with some humility and self-deprecation and the reaction will be that described above. Issue the standard apology and then have some fun, modestly, at your own expense.
Interestingly, there’s apparently been no apology by Burger King, yet (on their Twitter feed). Just a modest acknowledgement of what happened and a breezy “moving on…” vibe. I concur. Don’t make it worse for yourself. Just join the ranks of other Anonymous targets like Sony Pictures, Nintendo, Fox News and, heck, even the United States Senate and move on. You’re in good company. You’re a big brand. You’ll be OK.
Lesson #5: Everybody Likes a Good Hack
It’s the internet’s version of a practical joke. Just like if you’re the butt of a good practical joke in real life, don’t freak out. Embrace it (outwardly). If you want to fire the soon-to-be-actual Burger King fry cook who established your “whopper123” password, that’s up to management. But, at the end of the day, the public mostly thinks this is good fun, so roll with it.
If you don’t believe me, check out these 10 McFunniest Reactions to Burger King Hack from Mashable (that’s already gotten more than 15,000 shares…that’s a lot of free publicity). They’re mostly in good fun.
So even though we’re laughing AT you, Burger King, and not actually WITH you, at least we’re talking about you. And you gained something like 35,000 new Twitter followers. Not too shabby.
Related Resource from B2CWebcast: PR Hacking: How Ideas Spread And What Marketers Need to Know