Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Fire on Your Street: Hacking Engagement

This has been a big week of high-profile Twitter hacks, raising questions about our brave new-ish world of social media.

First hack up: Burger King. Altered to appear like the McDonald's Twitter account, an accompanying tweet announced the business had been sold to McDonald's. The tweets devolved from there, entirely unrelated to hamburgers, i.e. "all of our employees crush and sniff percocets in the bathrooms." While timelines blew up with retweets, the Internet laughed and wondered why it was taking so long for Burger King to regain control of the account. By the time they did, their followers had doubled.  

Hacking drama continued the following day--15 minutes after the Jeep social media team posted an article about how to avoid getting hacked, their Twitter account was hacked, with a Cadillac crest avatar and an announcement that they had been sold to Cadillac. This social media game of dominoes sent Cadillac into a defensive tweet panic after the hackers proceeded to tweet racial slurs. Jeep was back in the driver's seat by the end of the day, taking thousands of new followers on the ride.

Just a few days later, it looked like both MTV and BET had a double whammy Twitter hack, but it was quickly uncovered as a publicity stunt, meant to capitalize on the week's actual hackings and garner buzz and followers.

But do hack-related followers translate into anything meaningful for a brand? Or are they the online equivalent of a fire in the neighborhood? A sense of camaraderie quickly develops as folks come out into the street to watch and swap stories, but it evaporates when the fire department drives off. There haven't been enduring shifts in relationships or behaviors because relationships are built over time, with consistency and mutual benefit. You can't hack engagement.

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