social media marketing, digital marketing, chipotle, twitter

No doubt, Chipotle got people talking, tweeting and reporting when it pretended its Twitter account @ChipotleTweets was hacked with 12 awkward posts in one day. 

Win for Branding vs. Sour Social Burrito

Heck, we’re still reporting about it today, so mission accomplished for the Denver Mexican fast-food chain, right? Victory for brand recognition? Or defeat for social media marketing and building customer trust?

Depends on how you roll up this social burrito.

If you’re on the side of complete customer experience and trust as hallmarks for everything that is your brand, you’re not about to stamp this tactic as “social marketing with integrity.” But if you’re in the “any brand recognition is good recognition” crowd, Chipotle is a guacamole guru with a side of social innovation.

Andy White’s not ready to order this social platter from the Chipotle menu. (He hates Mexican anyway, he says.) White, the director of Social Business Strategy at Sprout Social and the architect behind Twitter's best performing social media campaign, #WantAnR8, calls Chipotle’s tweets from July 21 a “failure” and a breakdown in social trust circles.

There is no risk/reward when it comes to taking advantage of your community; there is only failure and by how much,” White says. “When a campaign becomes better known for its machinations rather than its results, then it is at best chatter for those within the social media glass bubble, and at worst the alienation of the community.”

Reached by CMSWire, Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., declined to comment for this story.

Fake Hacked Tweets

Chipotle served up a series of 12 fake tweets Sunday, July 21 that appeared to be a hacker job. Some jumped on the news. “Twitter” and “end twitter” were some of the bizarre posts. Later in the day, it was revealed that it was, in fact, a Twitter hoax. Chipotle cleared the air with a couple of tweets:

But the joke was on everyone else. Why? How about 4,000 followers during “hack day” -- a normal day for Chipotle produces about 250. For the 12 fake tweets, how about 12,000 retweets where normally the food-producer gets 75 per day?

Some examples of the fake Tweets:

  • “Please twitter”: 1,563 retweets, 612 favorites
  • “Mittens13 password leave”: 1,040 retweets, 475 favorites
  • “end twitter”: 1,847 retweets, 837 favorites
  • “twitter”: 1,444 retweets, 627 favorites
  • “Hi sweetie, can you please pick up some lime, salt, and onions? twitter”: 1,341 retweets, 571 favorites

Chipotle said the response was overwhelmingly positive. White, however, isn’t dipping his chips into this social salsa.

“Social is nothing without trust,” he says. “If you can't get the attention of your audience, and beyond, without resorting to blatant manipulation, then what have you become? It's the shock jock of social, the avenue of absolute last resort to spread some semblance of a message through the noise. Social should never become the boy who cried wolf.”

Future of Social Influence

So who in social today is working on brand recognition, without the faking? The BtoB 2012 Social Media Marketing Awards highlight some, such as GE Intelligent Platforms, which won “Best Use of Twitter” for its @OurWaterCounts campaign:

White uses the phrase “community management” when describing the importance of a strong social platform as the business matures.

“Taken to its full, community management is building a core group of influencers while remaining all encompassing,” White says. “We all have a voice; the art is hearing that voice and acting upon it. And I use the word 'influencer,' not referring to a Klout score or follower count, but rather an individual who over a period of months and years has become ingrained within the brand itself. This collective is an extension of everything you do, and they're there not through manipulation or rewards, but because of something as simple and as corny and clichéd as a belief in your message and everything you represent.”