Burger King Twitter Hack Offers Learning Opportunities for Franchisors


May 08, 2013

In February, Burger King experienced a hostile takeover of the company's Twitter account. It was made to look like BK's most obvious rival, McDonald's had completely overtaken the account. In fact, some posts even mentioned that McDonald's had purchased Burger King. Photos were posted as well as comments that were created to make the company look bad. At first, consumers were confused but as the day progressed, updates were sent out that included offensive material.

Eventually Burger King's Twitter account was suspended until everything could be sorted out. A day later, the account was up and running and distributing the correct feeds directly from Burger King. Despite the quick action by the company to put a stop to the posts while trying to find out what was going on, there is no doubt that the situation gained lots of negative attention.

At the time, the consequences seemed dire but in reality, the brand has moved on, as have the consumers. This is not the type of situation that will haunt Burger King for the next several years. Instead, it will become yet another stepping stone when it comes to marketing and social media. However, there were lessons to be learned by both the franchisor and the franchisees. Everyone can do their part to prevent these things from happening and stop them in their tracks the moment something heads south.

Franchisors need to provide the necessary training for franchisees when it comes to social media. Owners should understand how social media could be a business booster as well as how the accounts need to be protected. Simple things like changing passwords frequently or limiting the number of people that have access to the accounts should be stressed during the training. Prevention is always the first choice when it comes to dealing with these types of situations. Whether it happens on the franchisor level or to an individual franchisee, the brand is affected and it makes sense to have everyone working together to prevent these types of problems.

If something does happen, a franchisor needs to know that the franchisees know how to respond. Whether it happens on the national level or the local level, procedures should be put into place to immediately stop what is going on. This limits the amount of bad information going out to customers as well as the company's negative exposure. The sooner the account is suspended, the less consumers will see and the less the impact on the franchisor.

A Canadian franchise should be aware of the risks that social media create and take every precaution to protect the brand as well as the individual franchisees. With a variety of different people owning different branches of a franchise, it helps to have everyone on the same page with a clear understanding of how to protect the company from these types of attacks and what to do in case something like this happens in the future. The example for protecting the name and stopping the negative situation should come from the top down.