Chipotle’s “Hacked” Tweets the Latest PR “Twend”?

Chipotle Logo 150x150 Chipotles Hacked Tweets the Latest PR Twend?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for Chipotle’s Twitter “twick.”

Time was you were no one without a Twitter feed (Anthony Weiner, take note). But in the attention-challenged world of social media, trends move faster than you can click a Facebook “Like,” and the new mark of the Twitterati arriviste is to have your feed hacked. It’s so trendy, in fact, that some corporate marketeers are faking it.

Burrito franchiser Chipotle is the most recent case. A series of nonsensical non sequiturs crossed its Twitter feed last week before some guy named “Joe” tweeted about a “little problem with our account. But everything is back on track now!” Well whew!

As it turns out, it was all a marketing ploy, and by at least one measure it worked. The hourlong “hack” added 4,000 followers to Chipotle’s Twitter feed that day (compared to an average of 250), and the faux tweets were retweeted thousands of times (against a typical 75). “We thought people would pay attention,” a company rep later said, acknowledging that the “attack” was a tie-in to the company’s 20th anniversary promotion. Reaction, he said, was “overwhelmingly positive.”

Well, maybe. Not everyone thought the stunt was endearingly clever. Like its zesty Mexican fare, Chipotle’s spicy Twitter trick (“Twick,” anyone?) might have seemed a good idea at the time but result in little more than heartburn.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Chipotle, for taking a bite of PR risk that so far hasn’t bitten back.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be careful with edgy humor, lest you become the punchline. The PR blooper reel is laden with jokes that backfired badly. The same caution goes for jumping on the latest trend or doing anything that potentially makes fun of your intended audience. With the corporate world’s rush into social marketing have come some embarrassing failures (remember #McDStories?). There is a growing backlash against companies that hamfistedly try to be hip or au courant with social media, and this is especially true among teen-to-twentysomethings to whom fast food chains like Chipotle cater. Skinny jeans don’t look good on everyone. Take a careful look from all angles to make sure what you’re doing fits.

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William Dentzer About William Dentzer

William Dentzer, a San Francisco-based writer and communications/media consultant, has managed corporate communications and media relations at global firms such as UBS, Bain & Company, The Associated Press, and British consultancy Arup. He previously served as a mayoral press secretary and was a longtime political reporter and columnist with the Gannett newspaper chain in New York.

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