All press is good press, right? Maybe not for fast food chain Chipotle, which admitted to staging a fake Twitter hack on Sunday in order to gain more followers.
On Sunday, the Twitter handle for the Denver-based chain, @ChipotleTweets, sent out a series of tweets that fooled many into believing it was victim of hacking. After about eight tweets of nonsensical banter, the social media manager event went as far to apologize for the erroneous messages from an elusive person named Joe.
“Sorry all. We had a little problem with our account. But everything is back on track now! – Joe,” the first apology tweet read. “Please return to your usual #chipotle love and thanks for your patience with us today. – Joe”
If you thought this was a case of human error – though not nearly as bad as a Carlos Danger, er Anthony Weiner, gaffe – you were mistaken. It turns out, according to a spokesperson, that the hacking was completely fake and a staged publicity stunt to gain more followers.
Chipotle representative Chris Arnold confirmed to Mashable on Wednesday that it was indeed a publicity stunt in honor of the chain’s 20th anniversary.
"We thought that people would pay attention, that it would cut through people's attention and make them talk, and it did that," Arnold told Mashable. "It was definitely thought out: We didn't want it to be harmful or hateful or controversial."
Arnold said the tweets in the hack weren’t random but linked to the 20th anniversary celebration. He explained that some of the posts were “fragments about ingredients” as clues for the 20-day long promotional puzzle contest it’s running called “Adventurito.”
"What we were saying with the supposed hacked comments was essentially a bunch of gibberish," Arnold told CNET. "But, it also allowed us to reveal the content for that clue, which was a recipe for guacamole."
Thanks to the PR stunt, Chipotle’s Twitter racked up an additional 4,000 followers, according to Arnold, a huge increase from the average 250 followers it gains per day. The “hacked” tweets were retweeted about 12,000 times, Mashable reported, up from an average of 75 retweets daily.
As Mashable pointed out, other brands like Burger King, Jeep, MTV and BET have faked being victims of a Twitter hack before. But that doesn’t matter to Chipotle fans, many of whom are outraged by the cheap stunt.
“Most amazing thing about the Chipotle "hack?" That people are surprised about it. #cynical,” user @cyndyaleo wrote.
“Now companies are faking a #hack to seek attention. Heard of the Wolf story?” @vk_is wrote.
Worst of all, it doesn’t appear the strategy even worked for the brand.
“I would totally unfollow brands who fake about bein [sic] hacked,” user @MariaHanMei wrote.