3 Lessons From Lady Gaga's $9 Billion Twitter Hack

"Gaga, oh la la..."  Offering an iPad2 to each of her Twitter followers -- ah, sorry, "monsters" (her term of endearment for her adoring fans)...Let's see (pulling up the calculator app), that's a tidy sum exceeding $9 billion dollars to keep a hacker's promise of an iPad2 to each of Lady Gaga's 17,113,943 Twitter followers.  (No similar offer/hack was made on her Facebook page where she boasts   45,775,157 "monsters"!)

Joining the ranks of U.S. President Barrack Obama and Britney Spears, Lady Gaga found her Twitter account hacked, repeatedly offering an iPad 2 to her followers.  Even a bit much for a super-rich social media superstar who was the first to hit one billion YouTube views.

I spotted the story when TechCrunch first tweeted about it, less than an hour into the hack.  I immediately started tracking Lady Gaga's Twitter account to see how the communications crisis would unfold.  There was a running battle of the iPad offer appearing, being deleted, and reappearing.

With no message interjected from her Twitter account during the pitch of battle explaining what was happening, viewers were left to puzzle over what was really going on, though some math would have made it more likely than not that it was a hack, given the $9 billion dollar pricetag.  (No, I didn't click on the tempting link as I feared my own adoring Twitter fans...ok, friends...would soon be receiving a promise of a free iPad2.)

After about two hours, the running battle ended with Lady Gaga emerging victorious:

The tweets from her account that followed this announcement  were her typical tweets.

3 Lessons In Crisis Communications
From Lady Gaga

1.  Plan for Your Social Media Account To Be Hacked

"Wait, I'm not a superstar.  I'm just running a small business and trying to be social."  It doesn't matter.  Scores of social media accounts are hacked every day.  Some hacks happen because someone trustingly taps a malicious link.  Others happen because someone knows how to do it and you're their unfortunate victim.  Others happen because one of the apps you use is "leaky". Plan on being hacked and what you'll do when it happens.  (Having a secondary account already set up is a good way to start correcting the facts while you struggle with the task of wrestling back your account.)

2.  Pay Attention to Your Social Media Accounts

Social media is 24/7, viral and real-time.  If someone has hacked your account, you need to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible, as NBC News learned when its Twitter account was hacked and the account messaged a false report of a new attack on Ground Zero.  In the case of NBC, the account was taken down within ten minutes.  In Lady Gaga's case, the battle raged for about two hours. 

If you can, have more than one person monitoring your account.  Know that social network monitoring needs to continue even after 5:00 p.m. and on the weekends and holidays.  You owe it to your customers, "monsters", and to your brand.  It's the price of social business.

3.  Tell People What Happened, Where It Happened -- and Return to Business

For Lady Gaga, the return to business took place in a measured way, with a tweet announcing the hack was over, then two quick tweets about her normal routine and her appreciation for her fans...I mean, "monsters".

Don't ignore a social network hack or other communications crisis on your social network account.  Let your customers know you ran into a problem, what the problem was, and that the problem's been fixed -- then return to your normal routine.  (Yes, an apology is always good idea, too.)

If you can, communicate during the crisis what is taking place.  Stay calm.  Return to your routine after you've cleaned up any mess and offered the appropriate apologies or explanations.

What might you have done differently?  

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And please feel free to join me and my "monsters" on Twitter!  @GlenGilmore
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