Chipotle admits staging Twitter hack

The burrito chain was looking to earn more Twitter followers in conjunction with its 20th anniversary celebration. It worked.

A series of tweets from Chipotle’s Twitter account had observers scratching their heads over the weekend, with many assuming the account had been hacked. As it turns out, Chipotle “hacked” itself.

The first clue might have been that Chipotle never deleted the tweets in question, as is common brand practice following a hack. Instead, the burrito-and-taco chain’s Twitter account simply acknowledged a “little problem” and moved on.

“We thought that people would pay attention, that it would cut through people’s attention and make them talk, and it did that,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told Mashable.

The stunt was intended to focus attention on the company’s 20th anniversary promotion, a “treasure hunt” called Adventurrito. It’s a puzzle game, and on the day of the hack, the puzzle had to do with Chipotle’s ingredients. That’s why the tweets during the faux hack were about avocados, lime, salt, and onions, Arnold said.

“We had clues pop up in a lot of places and thought that incorporating something into our social media presence would fit well into that promotion,” he said.

Chipotle was also looking to add Twitter followers. It did that: More than 4,000 people followed the account the day of the pseudo-hack, far more than the 250 new followers it gets on an average day. The tweets from the hack were retweeted a total of about 12,000 times.

Arnold acknowledged that this is probably the type of stunt a company can pull off only once, or at least very sparingly. Sometimes fake hacks don’t work out for brands even on the first try. In February, MTV and BET faked their accounts’ being hacked after Jeep and Burger King’s Twitter accounts were legitimately compromised. Those sham hacks did not go over well with fans.

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