It can happen. Your social media accounts, with all the power, voice and reputation they hold, can become the target of a hacking nightmare. One minute everything is fine and dandy, and the next, your fans or followers are receiving posts or tweets that are not being sent by you.
These posts and tweets can be spammy in nature, or they can be aimed at lighting a fire under you or your company, deliberately attempting to send you into a social media crisis.
It happened just this week to Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, when his Twitter account got hacked and hackers began to spam his followers with Tweets aimed to hurt his reputation.
Tweets such as:
“I’m disbanding my sect, but I’m not going to give you your money back because I need it to party in Mexico, so you can all go to hell,”
were sent from his hacked account.
Prevention is the first step
Before you find yourself in this type of potentially brand-damaging situation, it is important that you take the appropriate measures to do what you can to prevent such a situation from happening in the first place.
Doing things like the following will go a long way in helping you protect yourself and your accounts from being hacked:
- Having a complicated password
- Having different passwords for each account
- Keeping your password in one place – that place being your head!
- Paying attention to which third party Applications you authorize on your accounts
- Limiting the number of people who have access to your accounts
Although these strategies can be helpful, sometimes, it’s just beyond your control. Sometimes, you find yourself victim of a hackers savvy skills and your account(s) and fans and followers begin to pay the price. In this case, what are you suppose to do?
What do you do when you find yourself victim of a social media hacking?
Time is of the essence in this scenario. The quicker you can regain control of your accounts and the situation, the better. Here are some strategic steps for you to take, if ever you find yourself in this type of situation:
Step 1: Change your password
If you’re able to log into your account (some hackers actually forget to change your password on you), then do so and change your password immediately.
If you’ve been locked out of your account(s), try accessing them from your mobile device. Sometimes, the way the API’s are set up, you get lucky and remain to have control over your account through your mobile device. If this is the case, then change your password a.s.a.p.
Step 2: Verify your Applications
Sometimes it’s not a hacker per se, it’s simply a faulty third party Application that is abusing its control. This has happened to me. Simply go through your (probably long) list of Applications connected to your account(s) and delete any App that you don’t recognize.
Step 3: Communicate with your audience
Whether you were able to log back in and regain control or not, it’s very important that you let your audience know what’s going on. If you were able to log back in, simply send out a tweet or a post explaining the situation and apologizing for any inconvenience it may have caused.
If you were unable to log back in, this gets a little trickier, but here are some tips you can follow:
- Use your other social networks to communicate your message. Although you probably won’t reach everybody this way (many Twitter followers don’t necessarily follow you on Facebook, for example), you will begin to get the message out there, and if anybody turns to your other channels for more information or to find out what’s going on, they’ll discover their answers.
- Ask your fans and followers from other accounts to @mention, #ashtag, or +you on the channel for which you’ve been hacked, helping you let others know what’s going on. This, again won’t reach everybody, but it’s a good place to start. (Plus you’ll feel the love and support coming from your fans and followers, and this is always nice to feel in a time such as this!)
- Publish a blog post, and if you’re a very influential brand and feel it appropriate, a press release.
Step 4: Regain control of your account(s)
If you haven’t yet been able to regain complete control of your account at this point, the following are links from the different social media channels, aimed to help you regain control of your account in this type of situation:
The first step is always prevention, but sometimes situations like these are beyond our control.
Have you ever fallen victim to a hacker’s attack, and if so, what were the measures you took to regain control and protect your reputation? Share your insights and experiences with me below!
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.