Cracking the Hack: A Guide to Hacking Your Own Social Media

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As the use of social media by brands increase so do the instances of hacking. We’ve written several pieces about bouncing back after your company’s social media is hacked. But what if the “hacking” is intentional?

On Sunday July 21st, Chipotle published a series of confusing tweets, making it appear that someone had gained access to their Twitter. It turns out, however, that Chipotle was in on the joke. The whole ordeal was part of a larger promotion that the company has been running this month called “Adventurito.” Though there have been some nay-sayers, it’s safe to say that this ploy was a success, as Chipotle gained over 4,000 Twitter followers that day (compared to their average 250) and the “hacking” has been covered by endless media sources.

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Following Chipotle’s fake hack let’s take a look at the do’s and don’ts of creating buzz for your company by pretending to hack your own social media.

  • Do: Be Tasteful

    As company representative Chris Arnold told Mashable, the company’s “hacking” was, “definitely well thought out,” and they, “didn’t want to be harmful or hateful or controversial.” Choose the words you use very carefully. If anything can be misconstrued in a negative way, don’t post it. This tactic should be humorous, not scandalous.

  • Don’t: Break Character

    This stunt worked for Chipotle because it matched their fun loving company culture and fans. If you decide to “hack” your own social media it should be because you think your fans would truly find it funny and engaging, not because you are trying to jump aboard the latest social media bandwagon. Leave this tactic be if it does not fit your company culture and/or your clients’ sense of humor.

  • Do: Tie Into Other Promotions

    The thing we like most about the Chipotle “hacking” is that it wasn’t a random event with no purpose; it tied in to a larger promotion that they’ve been running this month called “Adventurito,” a treasure hunt of sorts in which the company provides trivia questions and puzzles for their fans to solve each day. In return, Chipotle chooses one random fan who answers the puzzle each day. Each of these winners win free burritos for one year. On the last day, the company will grant the first 20 players who provide the correct answer free burritos for 20 years!

    This contest was crafted to celebrate the company’s 20 year anniversary and the Twitter “hack” actually revealed clues to that day’s puzzle – cleverly cloaking ingredients used to make Chipotle’s guacamole. The biggest lesson we can learn here: “hack” with purpose. Your fans will be much more receptive to this ploy if they feel like there’s a reason for it and they are in on the joke.

  • Don’t: Think All Your Fans will Respond Positively

    Though it was an overall success, not everyone saw it as such. Commenters on Mashable’s article on the subject said everything from, “We can see right through these stunts…” to, “A pathetic cry wolf strategy devised by an overpaid group of marketing morons who couldn’t come up with anything or innovative or juvenile. Fail.” Just as with every promotion (and arguably every choice in life) you can never please everyone. Consider your fans and their personalities. If the majority of them will “get” your hack, then proceed with it. If not, don’t.

  • Do: Come Clean

    Chipotle was quick to admit that they were behind the strange tweets on their account. A stunt like this should prove that your company is accessible and playful. If you remain in the dark you miss an opportunity to connect with your fans.

  • Don’t: Delete the Posts

    If your “hacking” is successful, that is. If you have a well-planned “hacking” and you own up to it, there should be nothing to hide. Deleting the posts is counter intuitive. Plus, your fans who found the posts hilarious will want to revisit them!

  • Do: Use This Tactic Sparingly

    Chipotle representative Chris Arnold said it best, “It’s certainly not a well you can go to often.” Yes, this is a fun marketing move, but it can easily be overused, leading to annoy and not amuse your customers. Save this for a perfectly paired promotion and then throw it back in the vault.

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