3 Reasons Fake Twitter Hacks are Bad News for Brands

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3 Reasons Fake Twitter Hacks are Bad News for Brands


Chipotle pulled a social media stunt on Sunday that sparked a lot of online attention – but maybe not the attention they were looking for.

They staged a seemingly harmless fake twitter hack to gain followers and jump start a little brand awareness on their 20th anniversary.


In terms of gaining followers – Chipotle’s stunt worked perfectly — most days they gain around 250 Twitter followers. Their fake hack saw an extra 4,000 followers in one day.

Twitter hacking is a very new trend that has arisen just this year. Back in February, Burger King and Jeep’s account were actually hacked, leading to a  huge burst in publicity.

It’s easy to see why Chipotle would stage a fake hacking, when brands like Burger King who experience the real thing – gain 30,000 followers in just one day, and a massive amount of social buzz.

Burger King Twitter Hacking Infographic – Synthesio from Synthesio

But this also raises a few questions around the value and dangers of a fake Twitter hack – yes, it has proved to be an effective way to gain followers and media attention in a very short amount of time but, is it worth it?

Here are a few reasons faking a Twitter hack could be potentially bad for your brand:


A Twitter hack is ultimately a disruption in brand communication. On social channels a brand’s audience is their online community  – and tricking their community with a fake hack for simply gaining attention can weaken their community’s trust, and damage the brand’s reputation and credibility.


In his book “Likeonomics”, Rohit Bhargava discusses the danger of focusing on increasing the number of followers/fans. The bigger number isn’t always better. Volume is generally the worst way to measure effectiveness – it doesn’t provide context or insight into the success of  marketing initiatives. Having a thousand quality fans that do something is better than having a million followers that do nothing. And let’s face it – the majority of new followers during a brand’s twitter hacking are just there for the show.


A Twitter hack is actually a  security nightmare for a brand. The security community takes these threats seriously, and staging a fake twitter hack is essentially a brand crying wolf. In his recent blog post, Why The Chipotle Twitter “Hack” Puts Us All In More Danger, Kyle Flaherty points out “it makes it that much harder for all of us in the [cyber security] profession to talk seriously about deep security issues. It all speaks to a serious lack of communication within organizations between the CIO, CMO, and CISO.”

 Do you think there’s value in faking a Twitter hack, or damaging to a brand’s reputation? Could this be a new kind of publicity stunt for brands? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!

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