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Is Twitter Safe for Retailers and Brands?

February 21, 2013

It used to be (we're talking last month here) that the biggest thing retailers and brands needed to worry about on Twitter were snarky comments from consumers in 140 or fewer characters. Boy, those were the good old days.

Now brands have even bigger issues to worry about as hackers have recently hijacked the Twitter pages of Burger King and Jeep to post hurtful messages and misinform the public.

The BK Twitter page had a McDonald's logo placed on it with a message that read: "Burger King USA official Twitter account just got sold to McDonald's because the whopper flopped..." In a similar fashion, the Jeep Twitter page claimed the car brand was sold to Cadillac.

So with hackers apparently running rampant, questions arise to how they managed to gain access to corporate Twitter pages and what can be done to stop them. A number of headlines questioned if Twitter were not at fault for allowing the hacks to take place.


Discussion Questions:

Should retailers and brands be concerned about security on Twitter and other social media sites? What should the conversation be between Burger King and/or Jeep and Twitter following the recent incidents?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How concerned should retailers and brands be about security on Twitter and other social media sites?


Retailers and brands need to be concerned about security on Twitter and other social media sites. Hackers abound and precautions must be taken. In addition to taking security measures, retailers and brands need to have a plan in place should they be hacked. Transparency and a good sense of humor will always help, and if played right, could draw attention to the brand/retailer and generate consumer interest and sales.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

I have just started doing TOUT, which is a 15 second video posted on my Facebook. It is awesome, and I plan to push this hard, as it is easy to use, plus the folks are liking it a lot. Technology can be used for good, and unfortunately for bad as well. It is tough to stop the hackers out there.

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Tony Orlando, Owner, Tony O's Supermarket & Catering

Social media outlets always pose a threat and companies should always be cautious. The issue becomes credibility and accuracy, which could translate to the brand's product. You don't want consumers to tie a connection between their lackluster burger and the "whopper flopping," for example.

The best way to combat these hackings would be to acknowledge and laugh with the rest of us. Smart marketers can use these instances for fun promotion opportunities, funny viral videos, and a chance to connect with consumers. We all know how violated we'd feel if someone hacked our personal accounts. It's not the action, but the reaction that will garner public support for the brands.

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Zel Bianco, President, founder and CEO, Interactive Edge

We all have to keep in mind that Twitter is pretty much free. You get what you pay for. It's interesting that it has already become so ingrained in our daily lives that we forget this isn't a utility provided by a telco or a power company. These people haven't figured out how to make money off this service yet—they're trying, but no there yet.

But hmmm, do I smell a premium service offering?

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Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Security on Twitter—are you joking? The US Government, Microsoft, Apple, and every Bank in the USA has been hacked dozens of times and you think that Twitter can be made secure? FORGETABOUTIT!

As for Burger King and Jeep, I seriously doubt that either is losing any sleep over Twitter. Another tempest in a teapot!

Ed Dennis, Sales, Dennis Enterprises

Everyone should be somewhat concerned about hackers but we have to remember that this is Facebook and Twitter we're talking about. These hackers are not steeling the company jewels. But wait, look at all the publicity these actions received? Handled correctly, publicity is publicity, good or bad.

Lee Kent, Sharing Insights for Success in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

Like anything else, proper security procedures should be in place to secure passwords and other information. At the same time, all of the precautions in the world won't stop the human vulnerabilities or the sophisticated hacker, so this has to be taken into account. But certainly not a reason not to be engaged on social media!

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Brian Numainville, Principal, The Retail Feedback Group

Perhaps if I thought there was any value for a business to be on Twitter in the first place, I could see reason to put up with the risk; but....


The new reality of the digital world is that there is risk each day that our online accounts will be breached. The current news story about the series of attacks identified by the US government on retailers and social networks indicates the source is the Chinese government itself. That complicates the issue.

All business interests need to factor in the risk of breach into their marketing efforts. As consumers become more familiar with data risk they will also be more forgiving to brands which fall prey to attacks.

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Bill Hanifin, CEO, Hanifin Loyalty LLC

It seems like common sense that brands and retailers need to be concerned about security on Twitter, social media sites and other digital assets. The question becomes not if they should be concerned, but how much should they be concerned. In my opinion, brands and retailers need to show a reasonable amount of concern and make sure that there are appropriate contingencies and responses planned.

There are two maxims to keep in mind when preparing for these type of problems:
1. Any publicity is good publicity
2. The response to a problem (such as getting hacked) is much more important than the problem itself

With an appropriate response savvy and clever marketers can turn the situation around and end up in a stronger market position given the problem was not the result of incompetence or carelessness.

Kurt Seemar, President, Analytic Marketing Innovations

Online security is an issue with any social media channel, credit card company, customer list, etc. As long as there are hackers in the world, we'll have security breaches. This is not limited to Twitter. It's everywhere. Companies will have to do their best to safely manage sensitive data and be very proactive in dealing with any episodes of a security breach. In the end, we want our customers to feel safe and confident about how we do business.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

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