Welcome to the Age of Social Media Rubbernecking

I was working and in meetings early Monday when Burger King’s Twitter account got hacked. It was a problem for Burger King, for sure – plus a big headache.


While the whole thing probably lasted a couple of hours, it spawned all sorts of breathless blog posts in reaction, with titles such as:

    “After Hack, Burger King Needed a Brand Publishing Response”

    “@BurgerKing Becomes McDonald’s: What You Missed in the #failurewhopper Twitter Hack”

    “Morning Briefing: ‘Hamburglar’ hacks Burger King’s Twitter account”

    “BK Twitter feeds grows by 20,000 following hacking”

    “What can we learn from the Burger King Twitter Hack?”

    “10 Things we can learn from the Burger King Twitter Hack”

    “3 Quick Crisis Response Tips Inspired by @BurgerKing’s Royally Embarrassing Morning”

    “Burger King’s Lesson in 24/7 Marketing”

What we’re dealing with is something I’m going to call “Social Media Rubbernecking.” Just like a car accident you pass by on the highway. We all stop to look, toss out a comment or two, and move along. Without doing anything to help the situation.

I’m willing to bet that the people most interested in this story, and the ones who wrote/blogged/tweeted about it, don’t give a rat’s ass about Burger King and never eat there. They’re too cool to do something like that.

Social Media Rubbernecking is now a daily occurrence. And mostly, incidents that blow up one day are mostly forgotten the next.

And that’s the problem: When every social media slip is deemed to be a big and important disaster, none of them really are.

Can we stop the Social Media Rubbernecking?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Good call, Dan. I might add that BK’s Twitter presence is so small there’s no reason for the brand team or its agency partners to tweak too hard. When a PR crisis causes people to eat someplace else, then you have sleepless nights make sense. Getting hacked on Twitter and losing control of the message for a few hours is messy and annoying, but not a big deal in the grand brand scheme. Plus, BK also gained like 30,000 followers thanks to this stunt.

  2. As for the can we stop rubbernecking? No. See https://twitter.com/Jeep for more on that.

  3. Dan and David, you should encourage someone to hack AdPulp and maybe you’ll pick up 20,000 new visitors.