Rebuilding Trust: How to Recover From a Social Media Hack

Recently, it seems like there is a news story about businesses or public figures having social media accounts hacked, on a regular basis.

With cybercrime increasing across the board in recent years, the rise in these kinds of breaches is not surprising.

Though these kinds of hacks may not be as serious as some of the larger scale data breaches that have also been on the rise in recent years, they can still negative effects if and when one happens to your business.

It’s not likely that they will stop or slow down anytime soon, either. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the increasing regularity of attacks like this is only going to continue.

This is especially true with technology like smartphones becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, increasing both potential points of attack and opportunities to exploit them.

This being the case, if your business finds itself in one of these situations, it is important now to not only take steps to protect itself from attack but also to know how to respond from a marketing and PR standpoint.

Related Article: Data Breaches Hurt 43% of Businesses in 2014: Do You Have a Cyber Security Plan?

Respond Immediately

Though it is generally a less harmful than large-scale data breaches and theft, social media accounts being hacked or accessed by unwanted people is an incredibly common occurrence. This can not only be a serious headache but can also compromise sensitive information and have other negative effects.

This happens on a regular basis to people everywhere. When it happens to a business or public figure, however, the damage it causes can be widespread and require immediate and well-strategized action to avoid even larger issues.

After you have the situation under control, the first thing you need to do be sure that you can keep it from happening again. This is for the sake of you and your customers’ security, but also because any effort you put toward turning the situation into a positive one will not matter if it happens again.

Instead, it will likely lead to more embarrassment for you. Also, with how quickly the internet news cycle moves, the longer you wait to respond, the less impact it will have for you when you try to turn the event in your favor.

Once you have done that, you need to know how you are going to respond and be quick to implement this plan. One of the most important things to remember in your response is that it’s important to be able to be able to make light of the situation and be at least somewhat self-deprecating in your response.

While it may feel embarrassing to be hacked, and feel like you are not in control, if you come across as too self-serious, then you will likely seem out of touch. A strong and emotional response is also likely to bring more attention to the situation than it would have received otherwise and doesn’t really do anything to improve how you look.

To see recent examples on both ends of the spectrum, you don’t need to look any further than two of the largest cornerstone organizations of society today, the NFL and Facebook.

Related Article: Lock It Up: How to Ace Email Security in 2016


On June 7, 2016, the NFL’s Twitter account was hacked, sending out a tweet that erroneously reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had died, it would have been easy for them to overreact. After all, joking about someone’s death is not exactly the classiest move, and Goodell’s status as a highly polarizing public figure with many vocal and passionate detractors could make it difficult to have a sense of humor about something that could potentially be seen as a threat.

Instead, Goodell and the NFL’s handling of the situation was substantially more tactful and effective. Instead of overreacting, Goodell tweeted out a photo of himself at the NFL’s offices, accompanied by a joke about the situation, which the NFL then retweeted, their only comment on the hack.

By handling the situation this way, both Goodell and the league were actually able to very simply and subtly improve their image. Consumers value human touches from brands that they invest their time and money in. Therefore, when a massive institution like the NFL can find ways to establish this kind of message, it can help counteract negative perceptions people have about the “No Fun League.”


Compare this to the recent hack of Mark Zuckerberg, a person who should know a thing or two about social media, as well as account hacks. Zuckerberg had both his Twitter and Pinterest accounts hacked because he failed to follow a fundamental rule of the internet and reused the comically simple password “dadada,” which had been included in a recent hack of millions of LinkedIn passwords.

Fortunately for Zuckerberg, there were no serious implications of the hack, and he does not actively use either of these accounts. In fact, this was such a non-issue to Zuckerberg, that he failed to make any type of personal response or statement about it, and Facebook only commented to state that no Facebook or Instagram accounts were accessed in the hack.

Related Article: The Security Risks in Social Media: Interview with Joseph Steinberg

Failing to respond in any way, however, makes this is a huge lost opportunity for Zuckerberg. It would have been incredibly easy for him to turn the situation around, and use it to either remind people of the importance of secure passwords, or use the fact that the hack occurred on Twitter and Pinterest, and not Facebook, or Facebook-owned Instagram, to market his platform. Instead, the conversation has been largely been at his expense because neither he nor did Facebook do anything to control it.

Image via Flickr

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