What Can We Learn from the Pace Salsa “Feud”?
Toward the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, comedian Kyle Kinane quickly made headlines across the web as an apparent interaction with the Pace salsa Twitter account went viral.
The unverified account, which had thousands of followers but only a few dozen tweets, had apparently been programmed to automatically favorite any mention of the brand on Twitter—including negative ones. Kinane responded by posting obscene tweets mentioning Pace by name, which the account then favorited—endorsing, among other things, homophobia and white supremacy.
The cautionary tale doesn’t end there. Before we dig any deeper into the subsequent direct messages, blackmail, account suspensions and viral spread of the story, though, let’s focus on what we can actually learn from what happened.
1. There’s no such thing as “private”
Once word of Kinane’s public abuse of the Pace Twitter bot started to spread, the person managing the account appeared to realize what had happened. After turning off the auto-favorite feature, he initiated a direct message conversation with Kinane in which he attempted to negotiate the deletion of his inflammatory tweets.
It did not go well.
Kinane took Pace for a wild ride, attempting to strong-arm the company for free salsa in exchange for his cooperation. The conversation quickly devolved as more voices appeared to join the conversation on Pace’s end, accusing Kinane of blackmail. Kinane and supposed Pace employees Miles, Eric and Sharon shot barbs back and forth, and each time they did, the comedian tweeted screenshots of the DMs for everyone following along.
— Kyle Kinane (@kylekinane) December 1, 2013
The lesson? Don’t be fooled by the apparent security of private communications like Twitter DMs, emails and Facebook messages. Anything you write on the web can be documented in a screenshot and broadcast for the world to see, making those “private” conversations a lot more public.
2. Information on the web moves faster than you think
It only took a matter of hours for the Twitter feud to go viral. News sites like The Huffington Post had compiled screenshots and shared the story with countless readers before the day-long DM exchange had even finished with the people behind the Pace account deleting it entirely.
If you become embroiled in a situation like this, you have every reason to believe it will go public. And once it does, all bets are off.
Granted, Kinane is a well-known comedian with more than 90,000 Twitter followers, and the Sunday after Thanksgiving was not a particularly exciting news day otherwise. When a viral story like this one catches on, though, it’s going to be shared en masse—and not just on social media, but in the news.
And the best part? It wasn’t really Pace’s Twitter account. In fact, Pace salsa doesn’t even have a Twitter account at all. Which brings us to lesson number three.
3. Protect Your Identity Online
This story spread so quickly that it was being reported by national news sites as fact before anyone could verify that this was, in actuality, an official Pace salsa Twitter account. It wasn’t until the next morning that Campbell Soup Co. confirmed that it was an unauthorized account.
@rossluippold Pace Foods does not have a twitter handle and the account was not authorized. We wish Miles luck though!
— Campbell Soup Co (@CampbellSoupCo) December 2, 2013
It turns out that the entire ordeal was an elaborate prank orchestrated by comedian Randy Liedtke, a friend of Kinane’s. Happy ending, right?
While the Twitter feud was only a joke—and a relatively short-lived one, at that—it’s also a powerful cautionary tale for any brand with a web presence. The lesson? Protect your identity.
If Pace salsa had actually had an official Twitter account in the first place, or even noticed the fake one months ago and requested its suspension, it wouldn’t have become the butt of a joke and had its name dragged through the mud.
Don’t want to create a social media identity for your brand? That’s fine—but you’d better make sure that nobody else does, either.