The Anatomy of a Crisis Part Three: Followers Speak Louder than Words

In Part One of this series we saw that every social media incident does not make a crisis; whilst in Part Two we explored how a true crisis causes trust, reputational and financial issues. However, can a social media incident actually lead to positive results?

The most recent social media “crisis” centred around the recent hackings of Burger King and Jeep’s Twitter accounts. On February 18th Burger King saw its Twitter page taken over, the avatar and name changed to “McDonalds”, and a flurry of questionable Tweets sent.


A day later Jeep suffered a similar incident – this time the hackers claimed the brand had been sold to Cadillac and, in one tweet, that Jeep’s CEO smoked drugs.

But did the brands actually suffer any damage over the hackings?

The tweets sent could have been seen as offensive; but there seemed to be no doubt in anyone’s eyes that they were the hackers doing and completely out of the brands control. In fact, many of the brands key supporters informed the companies about the Twitter hackings on their official Facebook pages.

This suggests their customers are engaged with the brands online social media profiles and invested sufficiently in the companies’ message to inform them of issues.

Rather than overact the situation the companies acted as swiftly as possible to contain to the situation. Particularly Jeep reacted with humour – sending the following tweet:

The brands may have come out of the incident unscathed but did they actually benefit from the hackings?

Both brands saw a huge increase in Twitter followers: Burger King was followed by over 5,000 new people in the first 30 minutes and by nearly 30,000 overall as a direct consequence of the hacking. Whether or not these followers are valuable for the brands, or whether they will stick around now the hackings are over, could be questioned. However, the fact that MTV, and sister network BET, orchestrated a fake hacking of their Twitter accounts in an attempt to garner new followers suggests that at least some brands believe these follower increases are valuable. In fact, a study by Social Media Today has suggested that to have generated the press and attention that Burger King received as a result of the hack it would have required nearly a $1,000,000 campaign investment.

As we draw to a close, it’s time to take a step back and have a quick look at what we’ve learnt:

  • The hallmarks of a crisis are lasting financial, reputational and trust issues for the company
  •  Crises are often fuelled by real life events to which social amplifies the situation, making it far harder for the brand to control or limit the damage
  • Not every social media incident creates a crisis
  • Those who work in social media should step back and make sure they view events in perspective: incidents can be inconsequential or, as we have seen, even beneficial to a brand

Ultimately, to understand the anatomy of a crisis you have to understand your industry and how an incident can unfold within it.

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