When hacking does your brand a favour

First Burger King and then Jeep. Hackers replaced the Twitter display pictures of these two brands with their competitors' and tweeted saying they have been acquired by the competition in a major growth move.

Hackers replaced the Jeep logo with Cadillac's and suggested Chrysler's group had been sold to General Motors. For Burger King, they replaced it with a display picture of McDonald's.

The tweets which followed on Jeep's Twitter were similar to those sent over the official Burger King feed, saying McDonald's had taken over its major competitor.

While Burger King certainly seemed to have fallen prey to this move, experts say the scandal, if gone unchecked, could have been was equally damaging for McDonald's.

McDonald's on its own Twitter feed said: "We empathise with our BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking."

"The best thing McDonald's could do is monitor the situation with their monitoring tools and do an audit of the social media policy and escalation procedure," Stephen Thirgood, Singapore country manager of Vocanic said.

Natasha Zhao, lead consultant at Blugrapes too echoed that McDonalds, in this case, was a secondary victim. Having swiftly made an official statement denying responsibility of the incident has, nonetheless, helped the brand keep its image clean.

Silver lining

What's interesting in the hacking scandal is that it seems to have done more good than bad for Burger King.

Both Zhao and Thirgood said the incident has not had a detrimental effect on the brand.

The hack which lasted a little over an hour ultimately resulted in Burger King acquiring over 30,000 Twitter followers on its account.

Following the crisis, Burger King tweeted on its account: "Interesting day here at Burger King®, but we're back! Welcome to our new followers. Hope you all stick around!"

Social media lessons

Nonetheless, while the hack proved to be an added entertainment value for followers and customers, it raises serious questions over brands' social media strategies, as the number of such hacking occurrences increase.

Identifying the key management team within both agency and client side before hand will contribute greatly in the recovery process, Thirgood said. "This has to come together with ready cooperation from senior stakeholders to address the issue,"

It not yet clear who was behind the hacking of the Burger King account but Twitter acknowledged on 1 February, 2013 cyber attackers could have stolen user names and passwords of 250,000 users.

According to Zhao, Burger King certainly dodged a bullet as the hack "was obvious through the content of the tweets."

"Had the hack been more subtle in mimicking the brand's tone and content to deceive followers, it would have done a far greater damage," she added.

Thirgood added that the response matters of course, but the learnings are just as important. "An 18 hour turn around time in resolving this crisis was a great result and achievement on Burger King's part," he said.