Burger King Hack – Is this the secret powerful social media engagement strategy?

How happy would you and your marketing team be if your Twitter account got 30,000 new organic followers in a single day.

What’s more:

What if you had 160,000 tweets about your company in one hour!

Sounds unbelievable right?

Well this actually happened. And it wasn’t through some crafty growth hack, or devised by a social strategy genius.

The secret:

This company’s Twitter account was hacked.

Rewind to 2013. On Monday 18th February, the social media team at Burger King would have been getting ready for another day of rolling out their carefully coordinated social media calendar. Plus, answering hundreds of customer questions across their social accounts.

Now imagine the reaction when looking at their Twitter account, to see that the golden arches of the McDonalds logo has replaced their own, and that their account had be renamed as their biggest rivals.


Throughout the morning the account spewed out random tweets about Burger King being sold to McDonalds, claims about what Burger King employees had been caught doing at work and other random nonsense.

The internet loved it:

It took until 1:15pm for Twitter to suspend the @BurgerKing account. It wasn’t until 4:15pm that Burger King issued an official statement saying that their account had been hacked. But by then the damage had been done. Well I say damage…

The result:

@BurgerKing had added 30,000 new followers. There were over 450,000 tweets about the brand, with 160,000 of those coming in a single hour. Burger King received a 300% increase in conversations during the time the account was hacked.

Burger King Hack 1

But this cannot be repeated, right?

Think again.

Not long after the Burger King hack other brands were hit.

Chipotle, the Mexican Grill food outlet, was one of the brands that had their Twitter account hacked.

Again their account was sending out random tweets about…well just about anything. It all looked very bizarre.

The result:

Chipotle added 4,000 followers that day and had 12,000 retweets. Pretty amazing stats!

But that’s just part of the story:

What was different about the Chipotle hack, was that Chipotle faked their Twitter hack.

Hold up!

Yes, that’s right. Chipotle faked its Twitter hack.

Speaking to Mashable, Chris Arnold, a Chipotle representative said: “We thought that people would pay attention, that it would cut through people’s attention and make them talk, and it did that,”.”It was definitely thought out: We didn’t want it to be harmful or hateful or controversial.”

The entire ‘stunt’ was tied in to their 20th anniversary promotional campaign.

What’s more:

In the same year, MTV also admitted faking its own Twitter hack.

So let’s do this.

Let’s use this secret to boost our followers and engagement. Let’s get hacked!

Jay Baer

Hold on:

These examples do not set a precedent. Despite the fortuitous circumstances that happened during these instances, there will have been hundreds, if not millions of social account hacks that have happened with no good coming from them.

Firstly, in these cases each of the brands are widely known and have a huge audience. Anything slightly out of the ordinary being posted by these brands on social would immediately be obvious that something was wrong, or likely they had been hacked.

For even a smaller brand even doing something ‘off message’ on social can create real problems.

Remember House of Fraser’s #Emojinal campaign?

House of Fraser jumped on the emoji band wagon, with a series of social posts that just confused people and drew a lot of negative unwanted attention.

Chris Bishop, founder of 7thingsmedia said at the time:

“Positioned between Debenhams and Selfridges, the department store’s social activity was so off their image that they’ve been ridiculed by the trade, their competitors and more to the point their potential consumers.”

Was this a conversation House of Fraser really needed to be a part of? Did this cement their position as a high-end, trustworthy retailer?

Likely not.

Simon Sinek

Having your ‘business voice’ being hijacked and used by someone else for their agenda can put you in a position you neither want to be in, or need to be in.

Secondly, what of the aftermath?

As with all the examples, any ‘hack’ deliberate or not is likely to create conversations and perceptions about your business, that you would likely not want to be part of.

All the really exists of your brand is the perception in the minds of your customers. Whether you recognise their perception of you, or not, is irrelevant.

Their perception is reality, everything else is an illusion.

Having that perception tarnished by a hack, or stunt designed to look like a hack would not be positive.

It is unfortunate, that after most legitimate hacks, businesses have to spend a lot of time and effort in picking up the pieces, apologising and trying to re-establish the public perception of their brand.

This is time and effort that is diverted away from the core function of the company, which is not favourable.

Getting hacked is not the secret to improving your brand perception on social.

And ‘perception’ in the long game, is a more important metric than your likes, followers or retweets.

Be patient. Always play the long game.



Social media is now a house that we all live in to do business and reach customers in today’s connected world.

But it’s a house that has a few gaps around the doors and the windows. And we all know the hazards around security, it’s just that with everything else to focus on – building engagement, content strategy, customer services etc. – we perhaps drop the ball in thinking about securing our business accounts.

How do you make sure your social accounts are difficult to hack? What tips do you feel other should follow?

Let us know in the comments.

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