On Monday, Burger King’s official Twitter account was hacked, with perpetrators causing all kinds of mischief, changing the profile picture to a McDonald’s logo, promoting McD’s specials and otherwise tweeting some decidedly un-family friendly messages. A social media consultant for Wendy’s sympathized, tweeting, “My real life nightmare is playing out over at @BurgerKing.” But while much of the reaction to the hack focused on potential brand damage to the home of the Whopper, the real victim is Twitter itself.
Brands have had plenty to be embarrassed about on the 140-character platform, whether it was Chrysler’s account venting about Detroit drivers, McDonald’s horror stories or HMV leaving the keys to its account in the hands of an employee it was in the process of firing. But this Burger King debacle isn’t a case of internal incompetence but rather a failure of Twitter’s security.
Accounts for the tech blog Gizmodo, as well as Justin Bieber and Lady GaGa have been hacked in the past, and at a time when the social platform has been increasing its offerings (and prices) for companies to take advantage of its seemingly ubiquitous reach, the idea that your brand’s official voice is just one quick hack away from becoming a meme mocked around the world might be a tad disconcerting.
Twitter acknowledged earlier this month that hackers may have accessed more than 250,000 usernames, passwords and emails. A drop in the bucket in the context of the more than 200 million overall Tweeters out there, but further evidence the platform has some substantial security concerns. Hacking the Biebs is one thing, but this Whopper whammy comes at an awkward time for Twitter given its lustful wooing of brand dollars. It just hiked the price of its popular “promoted trends” product 33% to $200,000 a day. Brand participation and enthusiasm for Twitter continues to play a key role in the company’s plans to monetize its already massive cultural cache.
The good news is Twitter’s actually already looking at bulking up its security— and the Burger King hack actually gained the brand 30,000 more followers. The bad news? Brands will want greater assurances that they won’t wake up one day and read a tweet that says their employees “crush and sniff percocets in the bathrooms.”