Social media fail as hackers hijack Burger King Twitter account: “We just got sold to McDonalds!”

Patrick Stafford /

The social media industry has been buzzing this morning over an embarrassing incident targeting fast-food franchise Burger King, which had its Twitter account hacked overnight and its profile picture changed to the McDonald’s logo.

The incident certainly isn’t the first time a major company has been embarrassed on social media, but is one of the more high profile incidents involving a hack. Recently, HMV staff started using the company’s Twitter account to live-tweet a mass staff layoff.

The account was hacked by an unknown group, which changed the company’s logo and profile name to McDonald’s. It then started tweeting offensive messages, along with a message the company was “bought out” by McDonald’s.

Soon, Burger King became a trending topic and the account itself gained thousands of followers. While no specific group has claimed responsibility, one tweet from the account told followers to read the Twitter account of hacker group Anonymous. However, another Anonymous account has denied responsibility.

Some of the tweets were fairly graphic, including one of a man apparently injecting himself with a syringe. The caption read “we caught one of our employees in the bathroom doing this”.

Burger King released a statement about the hack, saying it apologised for the inconvenience. Twitter and McDonald’s were contacted, but no reply was received prior to publication.

But while the incident is an embarrassing one, some experts believe it represents a good opportunity for advertising, rather than cowering from the public eye.

Matt Barbelli, chief executive of Frank Digital, told SmartCompany the business could potentially turn the incident around and use it to its advantage.

“I think they can make some sort of funny ads or tweets here,” he told SmartCompany, saying the benefit in this instance is that the business hasn’t actually done anything wrong.

This differs from some other social media controversies, where businesses have attracted attention for either failing to respond to customers’ requests or have posted controversial material.

“I think people are finding the situation funny, and it’s not really Burger King’s fault. Companies are always going to get hacked by someone who is maliciously trying to ruin them.”

Barbelli also says the incident serves as an important lesson – paying attention to a Twitter account as often as possible means you can catch incidents before they get too out of hand. Although the Burger King account was tweeting for about an hour, it was shut down relatively quickly.

“You really need to be aware of what’s going on with your social media, and that’s why having a social media manager, whether internally or outside the office, is vital.”

Twitter itself has been in the news for hacking recently, after the company recently confirmed it had suffered a cyber-attack.

Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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