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The hack of the official McDonald’s Twitter account was EPIC. Early in the morning on March 16, McDonald’s sent out a tweet that people will be talking about for a long time.
“@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.”
That tweet quickly became the viral story of the day, not just with bloggers and the tens of thousands of people who happen to be following McDonald’s on Twitter, but also with the mainstream media.
Media outlets had a nice laugh about the fact that one of the biggest corporations in America just publicly taunted the President. And not just any corporation, either. Donald Trump has made no secret of the fact that he enjoys the food at McDonald’s, especially when he’s flying from one city to another. And what better symbol of a “made in America” brand is there than McDonald’s?
The response from McDonald’s
To their credit, McDonald’s handled the situation about as well as a brand could be expected to, given the circumstances. They quickly deleted the tweet within 20 minutes (but not before people took screenshots of the tweet to save it for posterity), and have been posting updates on their Twitter account about their response.
One update was simple but effective: “We deleted the tweet, secured our account and are now investigating this.” The company even posted an update in the “newsroom” section of its website, so they definitely owned the problem. You can’t pretend something like that didn’t just happen!
Social media in the age of political hacking
It’s easy to see how this McDonald’s tweet incident could really open up a Pandora’s box of hacker exploits. It’s already getting hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake in the world of social media, and corporate Twitter accounts sending out fake tweets and political protest messages aren’t going to help matters.
The reality is that we’re living in a new age of political hacking. The Wikileaks hacks were just the beginning. Every tweet is now potentially at risk of being hacked, with the ability to travel around the world in just a few minutes to cause maximum political damage. One can only speculate that, if the tweet had been pro-Trump instead of anti-Trump, we’d be blaming “the Russians” for doing this.
If you’re running the social media accounts for a company or a brand, you need to make sure that your accounts are as secure as possible. That’s easier said than done, of course, because several people may have access to a corporate Twitter account. According to security experts, there are some basic steps you can take:
- Change the passwords regularly
- Use passwords that are hard to guess
- Make people in your company aware of email “phishing” schemes
- Monitor your social media accounts for strange behavior
- Have a “PR disaster plan” in place in case something happens
The thinking now is that the McDonald’s hackers used a phishing scheme to break into the account. They sent out harmless-looking emails to people, pretending to be someone from Twitter. The emails asked people to go to a certain website, where they could change and reset their password information. However, as you can imagine, that email wasn’t coming from Twitter, and that website people went to was actually a website owned by a hacker.
Fortunately for McDonald’s, the company has built up enough brand equity over the years that people seem to be handling the situation pretty well. Some people on Twitter have even joked that they might visit McDonald’s more often now.
These are strange times. The decision of whether you were a Whopper or Big Mac type of person used to be strictly a matter of your taste in burgers. But now it’s a question of political orientation and what types of views your brands are sharing on social media.