The Risks of Being “Social”

We can all agree that social media can add immense value to a company’s brand. A great social media presence helps people discover your product or service, and if done right, can even be a great source for generating sales leads. However, what happens when good intentions go wrong? There is an inherent risk that individuals take when they post online—comments can come back to haunt them personally. The same goes for big businesses. Below are examples of the risks associated with being “social” in today’s world.

 Burger King:


   Sometimes is not even the brands fault, per se. No company has been in the news for all the wrong reasons because of their Twitter account than Burger King has. On February 18th hackers were able to gain control of Burger Kings Twitter account. They changed the logo to Burger Kings main rival, McDonalds, as well as posted inappropriate and offensive tweets for approximately two hours.

Image   Before you begin to feel sorry for BK (if you even do), consider that it may not have been the worst thing that could have happened. Maybe, if I dare say– a good thing. Taking a look at it by the numbers, Burger King after being hacked gained 30 thousand new followers on the first day, as well as over 450 thousand tweets about them all over the world! Before the hack, BK had roughly 80 thousand followers. Today is has a little over 111 thousand. Now, if you subscribe to the old adage that all publicity is good publicity, then you can warrant an argument that BK being hacked was great for their brand recognition and most importantly for them—their bottom line. The challenge now for Burger King will be to leverage this new found popularity on social media to a more permanent state.


Image   Now let’s take an example of a company who is actually at fault for their own social media disaster. In January 2012, McDonald’s embarked on an ambitious, yet foolish promoted trend campaign known as #McDStories. What was supposed to be an attempt for followers to share their happy stories about the brand to build rapport became a total Twitter nightmare. In fact, less than 2 hours after implementing it, McDonalds took down the hash tag. Why? Because heartwarming stories were not what was tweeted! McDonalds created a space where people could share their most disparaging stories about the McDonalds brand– and they did. To make things even worse, McDonald’s Twitter team didn’t tackle the problem head on. They simply tried to delete it and hope that it would go away. But like everything else on the web, once it’s there, it stays there.

As we can see, being social on the web carries risks and challenges that any business wanting to participate in social media has to deal with it. These are just a couple of the countless examples of companies dealing with mistakes and obstacles caused through social media. At the end of the day, anything you post on a social network, regardless of how insignificant you think it is, can rear its ugly head back at you. If it happens to Billion dollar companies, it can happen to anyone.

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share!

7 thoughts on “The Risks of Being “Social”

  1. Very interesting post! I am starting to familiarize myself with Twitter, but am unaware if large organizations like BK or McDonalds would have the ability to review tweets before they are actually posted. Do you know if that is possible? If not, maybe it is a feature that Twitter should consider, especially since it is giving them a bad reputation at the same time.

    1. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by review, but most large organizations use some sort of third party service that schedules tweets like Hoot Suite or Tweet Deck. This allows them to see what tweets are going to be scheduled. Possibly an organization can have one person monitor all the tweets before they are posted. However, because Twitter is used mostly for real time responses that it would be difficult to ensure that every tweet is suitable. That is why it is important to hire competent people and have guidelines in place to follow!

  2. Daniel

    Two great examples. For BK, at least with the measurement of number of followers, it appears the incident wasnt as disasterious as first imagined. Look at all the “free” media attention it gained. It would curious to know the reasoning the hackers had. The end results most likely wasnt what they wanted.

    As for the McDonalds example, do you think the primary problem was creating the hashtag in the first place without proper research or how they handled it by taking down the hashtag?


  3. my Twitter account was also hacked the other day and all of a sudden “stupid” tweets were sent under my ID…Fortunately I noticed it and I did whatever was necessary to get it sorted out. It was kind of scary although I am not a big Twitter person I was concerned so I definitely understand under what pressure large companies must be. As you said, everyone can be harmed but the damage to large companies can be quite massive.

    1. It’s the risks we face in being so openly social. That is why it is important to monitor your presence on any social media network to make sure you haven’t been hacked. A friend of mine who hadn’t used Twitter in a long time went on his account and saw that it had been hacked and had been tweeting random stuff!

  4. I also mentioned the McDonald’s Twitter gone wrong campaign on my blog this week. In reading newspaper article forums(here people comment on a new story) there are sometimes so many trolls that I sometimes give up. So I am not surprised about McDonald’s.
    The number of followers from The Burger King hack is very interesting and surprising. I also think the old adage that any publicity is good publicity maybe right!!!

  5. It’s unfortunate that regardless of how well you curate your presence on social media, there will always be people that wish to do you harm. You just have to monitor it well. Even on WordPress I get unsolicited comments from people trying to pitch some sort of product!

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