Did Chipotle jeopardize the respect of many brand-loyal customers in exchange for 4,000 new Twitter followers? In its recent publicity stunt to celebrate its 20th anniversary, where the company faked its Twitter account being hacked, Chipotle had a lot of people wondering if the brand that expounds “food with integrity” is made up of the same ingredients.
For several hours, the company’s Twitter feed spat out bizarre tweets such as “Do I have a tweet?”, “twitter friends search bar,” “Mittens13 password leave,” etc., leading many to believe the company’s account had been hacked. After this steady stream of nonsense continued for a while, the corporate account then tweeted:
Several days later on Mashable, Chris Arnold, a Chipotle representative, said the ploy was to get attention surrounding the company’s 20th anniversary campaign. “We thought that people would pay attention, that it would cut through people’s attention and make them talk, and it did that,” said Arnold. “It was definitely thought out.”
Really? and How well? are the two questions that a lot of people are asking. “Chipotle is a brand about honesty and authenticity, faking a hack is off brand,” tweeted Rick Liebling, creative culturalist at Y&R.
This isn’t the first time that Chipotle has had trouble in the public eye of social media. In 2010, a manager of a local Chipotle restaurant posted from her phone to her personal Facebook page that she had hit a cat on her way home (and the following posts from friends weren’t necessarily the most caring).
The conversation could have ended on her personal page, but Chipotle’s social media account also joined the conversation, and instead of just being transparent or saying that it was a personal matter that didn’t involve the brand, the company posted that the individual’s account had been hacked and the post about hitting the cat and all the other comments from others that followed, were completely made up, causing even more of a social uproar. Read more here.
But back to the brand’s faking of a social media hack. If you look at Chipotle’s Twitter account @ChipotleTweets, you’ll see that the brand does a fantastic job of engaging its social customers. Faking a hack as a publicity stunt and to get more followers (most of them just there for a one-day show, not because they like Chipotle) jeopardized that well-built engagement and trust and all the keys to maintaining a brand reputation on social media (honesty, transparency, engagement, human conversation, brand voice and consistency of that voice).
PR departments need to take the above more seriously, and always keep in mind that social media isn’t just a PR and marketing channel where you can bounce crazy ideas off the wall; it’s where your most loyal customers and brand advocates are always watching. (And yes, you can have it all, loyal customers and more Twitter followers – Oreo is a great example of PR delight and customer engagement working hand-in-hand to promote the brand on social media.)
Chipotle’s true fans followed @ChipotleTweets on Twitter because they like and respect a company that tries to do the right thing and that promises “food with integrity,” and they expect consistency in this ingredient. Change the recipe even a little, and you may leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
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