Social Marketers Behaving Badly …

Social marketers behaving badlyEx-Cong. and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner hasn’t been the only one misbehaving on social media.

Chipotle Mexican Grill also gets a time-out to sit in the corner for its social media hi-jinks. 

It turns out that a supposed hacking of Chipotle’s Twitter account in mid-July was nothing more than a ploy to grab attention and gain more Twitter followers.

For those who haven’t heard, Chipotle’s Twitter stream appeared to have been hacked as a series of bizarre and nonsensical tweets were posted over the span of several hours – until the company claimed to have solved the problem.

As it turned out … the whole thing was completely manufactured – all of those crazy tweets published by the company itself.

A few days later, a Chipotle spokesperson came clean, admitting that the whole episode was actually a carefully orchestrated effort to gain more Twitter followers, in concert with the company’s 20th anniversary.

Did it work?  Evidently yes … because Chipotle had ~4,000 more Twitter followers at the end of the campaign than it did at the beginning.

But some marketing professionals were critical of the ploy.  Here are a few representative comments:

  • Chipotle is a brand about honesty and authenticity; faking a hack if off-brand.”  (Rick Liebling, Y&R Creative Culturalist)
  • “Most of these stunts … strike me as being pretty lazy.  It’s like making your CEO do a press conference drunk and then apologizing for it once he sobers up.”  (Ian Schafer, Deep Focus CEO)
  • Chipotle’s pico de gallo was more ‘weak sauce’ than ‘muy caliente.’”  (Saya Weissman, Digiday Editor)

On second thought, perhaps it’s not such a good idea to “mess with the market” when upside is a few additional social media contacts (that probably won’t stick around), and the downside is brand irritation or even humiliation.

After all, Chipotle’s net gain in Twitter followers represented an uptick of just 1.7%

That seems a bit paltry considering the potential blowback and reputation risk.

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