News Column

Burger King in Social Media Spotlight

February 19, 2013

Rob Manker

You can add Burger King to the list of companies getting a crash course this month in the booms and busts of corporate social media. First, Oreo was praised for its quick-thinking "You can still dunk in the dark" tweet during the Super Bowl blackout. Then last week, Poland Spring was criticized for being too slow to capitalize on Sen. Marco Rubio's consumption of its water during his GOP response to the president's State of the Union address.

Over the weekend, Deerfield-based Beam Inc. reversed course on its decision to reduce the alcohol content of its Maker's Mark bourbon after a social media-fueled backlash.

Monday, it was the hacking of Burger King's Twitter account that put it in the spotlight -- and not in a good way. Someone changed the @BurgerKing feed to look like that of McDonald's, substituting the McDonald's logo in place of Burger King's. The hackers sent several vulgar tweets, posted outrageous claims about company employees and practices and even linked to a video by controversial Chicago rapper Chief Keef.

The hacked feed was live for more than an hour before Twitter shut it down at Burger King's request.

"We have worked directly with administrators to suspend the account until we are able to re-establish our legitimate site and authentic postings," Burger King said in a statement Monday afternoon. "We apologize to our fans and followers who have been receiving erroneous tweets about other members of our industry and additional inappropriate topics."

The first of more than a dozen bogus tweets came around 11 a.m.: "We just got sold to McDonalds! Look for McDonalds in a hood near you."

"We caught one of our employees in the bathroom doing this ..." read another, accompanied with a photo of someone injecting himself with a syringe.

By 12:15 p.m., the account had been suspended, but not before jokes about the hack were racing across Twitter.

"Somebody needs to tell Burgerking that 'whopper123' isn't a secure password," Twitter user @flibblesan cracked.

Oak Brook-based McDonald's took to Twitter to assure its fast-food competitor that it was not behind the attack.

"We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts," McDonald's said via the actual @McDonalds account. "Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking."

The account had returned to active status by 5:30 p.m., with the McDonald's logo and name gone but with the offending tweets still visible. Three hours later those tweets were removed, and by 9 p.m. the account was back to normal.

"Interesting day here at Burger King, but we're back! Welcome to our new followers," came the account's first legitimate tweet of the day, acknowledging the thousands of followers it gained during the hack. "Hope you all stick around!"

A Burger King spokesman said the company did not have confirmation of who was responsible for the attack.



Source: (c) 2013 the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by MCT Information Services