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Opinion Editorials

Hacking your own social media accounts: new trend

In light of recent social media hacks of various enterprise accounts, let us look at the magnificent possibilities for brands willing to hack their own social networking profiles.

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Burger King, Jeep get Twitter hacked

Everyone is talking about the Burger King and Jeep Twitter hacks that happened this week. Personally, I found the whole thing to be quite boring. When these hacks happen to brands, the hackers seem to have an IQ lower than the President Camacho in Idiocracy.

Upon taking over the accounts, tweets amount to nothing more than “YO CAN U BELIEVE DIS @#$%!?? WE H@Qed THE @#%# outta Burger King, yo!” I implore hackers everywhere to do a little research on subtlety before their next takeover attempt. Watch the Yes Men on Netflix. Better yet, just send them the password and let the professionals do their thing. There are lots of hilarious things one can do with a hacked account that might even have the brand not realize they were hacked in the first place. “Did you approve this ‘90% off’ coupon? Who said we were keeping the stores open till 4am this week?”

What’s the point of hacking if you don’t have fun?

The equivalent of a band of rowdy teens

When a brand is hacked and it’s this obvious, the damage is really minimal. It’s no more damaging than if a bunch of rowdy teenagers kidnapped Burger King employees, stole their uniforms and instigated a massive food fight inside the restaurant. People would just feel bad for the victims. It’s merely juvenile vandalism when there’s an opportunity for activism.

What could one have done with a hacked Burger King account? Bring attention to animal cruelty by announcing their all-new vegetarian menu? Raise awareness of wages and labor practices? There are lots of ideas that would have a lot of people thinking about the brand differently.

Profane but hilarious

One hoax that was done in a way that’s humorous instead of pointless was the fake website put up on a domain that easily could be mistaken for Guy Fieri’s infamously bad new restaurant. At a glance it appears to be a normal, albeit over priced menu, but reading the descriptions, such as “Guy’s Big Balls – Snuggle up to two 4-pound Rice-A-Roni crusted mozzarella balls endangered with shaved lamb and pork and blasted with Guy’s signature Cadillac Cream sauce until dripping off the plate…” are pretty hilarious.

If only the Burger King and Jeep hackers had half a brain, they might still be controlling the accounts and entertaining us along the way with slightly implausible new menu items.

Hacking or jacking up the stats? 

In the end, Burger King gained a 30 percent bump in followers the day of the attack. Which led me to wonder, at what point will brands start to vandalize their own accounts just to get attention?

It didn’t take long for MTV and BET to come up with a light-hearted version of this idea yesterday where they “hacked” each other’s accounts and traded barbs back and forth. Brands vandalizing their own work for attention is nothing new; in 2009 MoMA subway posters were vandalized by Poster Boy along with Doug Jaeger, the owner of the branding agency they paid to create the campaign in the first place.

It’s just a matter of time before more daring brands start to see that the way to cut through social media clutter is to let their hands off the steering wheel because it’s so much more fun to watch the accidents.

Will the social hacker be the next social media guru? Perhaps there will be a new analytics platform that tracks pre- and post-hack activity. “Well Donna, our core audience seems to have shifted in the last day from 45 year old soccer moms to 14 year old teen boys, perhaps we should change the style of purses we’re manufacturing.”

Tips for your brand hack

Since we’re pioneering this newfangled marketing idea right here in this column, let’s talk social media self-hacking best practices:

  • Let your brand be authentic. Say what you’d really say, don’t use corporate-speak! Oh wait, that’s what they said at Social Media Week for real today… wrong notebook!
  • Don’t be too over the top at first. Be in constant beta. Oh dammit… those are my notes from last year’s Social Media Week. Hold on!
  • Come up with some outlandish but slightly plausible policy change that will get people talking, yet is subtle enough that your own team could think it’s real.
  • Pretend you’re a social media intern on your last day at work. Go nuts!
  • Don’t be vulgar. It’s the easiest way to get caught. Praising 1930s German dictators is very last year and overdone by too many celebrities.
  • Wait two weeks. After reading this article, several new firms boasting a full thirteen days of experience will emerge to pitch your social media account hacking business. They will be at constant odds with the normal social media team who will demand their password back so they can get back to posting real coupons and retweeting “influencers.” This back and forth is a good thing, creating an internal competition to see who can gain the most followers? The “legit” team or the “hacker” team?

Meanwhile, I’ll be scamming my way into a social media conference next year to speak on my successes in social hacking and the new technology I’m developing to automate it.

Marc Lefton is a creative director and tech entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. He's a partner in Digikea Digital based in NYC and Gainesville, Florida.

Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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