Was Chipotle’s Fake Twitter Hack a Flop?

Earlier this week, Chipotle’s official Twitter account, @ChipotleTweets, appeared to be hacked, tweeting bizarre, incoherent messages to the fast food chain’s 200,000+ followers.

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It turns out, however, that the cryptic tweets actually came straight from Chipotle HQ, as part of the company’s strategy to promote “Adventurito,” a 20-day treasure hunt and puzzle series, says Chipotle communications manager Chris Arnold.

“In the context of the promotion it was a part of, it was a success,” says Arnold.

For a company that has built its reputation on freshly made food, though, some say the Twitter stunt felt a little bit stale. “I’m not sure that Chipotle’s actions gave the company the consumer talk and engagement they were looking for,” says Scott Thaler, Chief Interactive Officer at Zimmerman Advertising. Thaler says, if anything, the stunt simply sparked a lot of trade talk about the strategy.

“They had to do a lot of explaining to customers – what it was about, why they did it – and they’ve had a more defensive stance than a proactive conversation,” he explains. While Arnold maintains it was a success, he admits, “I think [the conversation] got a little sidetracked.  This notion that it was a ploy to add followers is total nonsense.” That said, Thaler says he wouldn’t dismiss all Twitter stunts as bad strategy. “You can get creative with your social program … It’s okay to have fun with your customer base, if that’s in line with the tonality of what your brand is all about,” he says.   But in the case of Chipotle, he says the fake hack simply didn’t improve the relationship between consumer and company. Arnold says the spoof was played with only good intentions. “For people to feel like it was misleading somehow, or undermines trust, we certainly apologize. It wasn’t our intention,” says Arnold.