Wild Card Thursday: How to Respond to a Social Media Crisis

It was a wild week in social media. Burger King and Jeep’s Twitter accounts both got hacked. Community managers around the world frantically changed their passwords, and Twitter’s security model was questioned in its strength to protect corporate accounts.

However, in return, these accounts gained many followers and attracted a lot of attention (not all good.) The incident also brought up the reminder of password hygiene practices. Chrysler was able to regain control of the Jeep account roughly 80 minutes later, which is practically a century online these days. In a crisis, some brands succeed in their response, and others fail miserably. Below, I explore the positives and negatives following the hackings.


While it’s not always appropriate to respond with humor during a crisis, Jeep’s response to the hacking was funny and memorable (see image.) Their response showed that there are clever ways to leverage a hacking incident to the brand’s advantage. 

Silence is a crisis management no-no. McDonalds took the high road and expressed sympathy in a tweet that assured the public that it had nothing to do with the hacking. Also, some say that this social media hack was an opportunity in disguise. For these corporations, a large reason they are online is to humanize their brand. These hackings made McDonalds and Jeep appear vulnerable and more human. Burger King offered a promotion on their Whopper after the event, which is a win after gaining so many new followers. This potential disaster turned into a social media gain.


MTV and BET tried to capitalize on these incidents. MTV’s Twitter account appeared to have been hacked, this time being rebranded as BET. As it turned out, this was a publicity stunt to promote both networks.  Eventually, both brands copped to the scheme after the fake hack had lasted a few minutes.

What did social media gurus and community managers think about this stunt? LameWhy? Because people who follow these brands don’t like to be fooled. Whether they gained new followers or not is beside the point. The people who “fell” for it weren’t very happy after they found out they weren’t in on the joke.

Overall, I believe one of the biggest issues that came to light during this occurrence is security. On social media, it is incredibly hard to maintain password protection and all it takes is one weak spot to compromise a business. While Burger King and Jeep’s hackings are not going to cause a national disaster, the U.S. government and major media organizations definitely took note. Ignite posted 9 Tips for Greater Social Media Security that everyone should read, whether it’s for your personal or business accounts that you manage.

Hacking, while not inevitable, should be prepared for. What’s important is how the brand responds. Remember to have a contingency plan in place, just in case.

Published February 22, 2013 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Social Media, Twitter