When it comes to social-media marketing, companies have a responsibility to their fans and followers -- a.k.a. their customers -- to be genuine, to provide a service and to add value. When a company is disingenuous or outright lies, it risks losing the trust of its followers.
Last week, it appeared as though fast-food chain Chipotle was the most recent company to have its Twitter account hacked. Followers of @ChipotleTweets saw random, confusing messages, including:
Mittens13 password leave
Hi sweetie, can you pick up some lime, salt, and onions? twitter
Do I have a tweet?
But the company recently confirmed to Mashable that its account wasn't hacked at all. Chipotle faked it, sending those tweets itself.
A Chipotle representative said the stunt was part of the company's 20th anniversary promotion. The company created something called "Adventurito," a 20-day-long treasure hunt and puzzle series. Chipotle said the strange tweets, although not immediately clear, were part of that project.
"We thought that people would pay attention, that it would cut through people's attention and make them talk, and it did that," the Chipotle representative told Mashable. "It was definitely thought out: We didn't want it to be harmful or hateful or controversial."
Chipotle's Twitter account, which has more than 200,000 followers, added more than 4,000 followers on the day of the "hack" compared to its usual 250 new followers a day.
Earlier this year, MTV and its sister network BET faked having their Twitter accounts hacked. The effort was largely criticized as a ploy for attention.
If the weird tweets Chipotle sent were indeed connected to its Adventurito promotion, it wasn't immediately clear. Faking being hacked can drum up attention but might not be worth it if it's at the expense of confusing loyal customers -- especially not if you lose their trust in the process. People generally don't appreciate being punked.