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Pace Salsa really is the best. Hot Pace Picante? Mmmm ... so good.
It also has (had?) a Twitter account: @Pace_Foods, which stirred up quite the controversy over the weekend. Kyle Kinane, a stand-up comedian, noticed that a ten-month old tweet, accusing the company of using homophobic advertising, was favorited by @Pace_Foods, and responded to with, "GRAB THE SOUTHWEST BY THE BOTTLE."
Kinane tweeted back. Same response. So he did it again, and again, with each anti-Pace tweet being favorited and responded to with the ALL-CAPS command. What followed was insane: direct messages from company employees, a firing (#BringBackMiles), an unfiring, a company saboteur trying to get a fellow employee fired, and of course, free salsa appearing on the comedian's doorstep.
Here's the kicker: neither Pace, nor its parent company Campbell's, was involved. It was all a prank, reports The Huffington Post.
Bored Comedians, Meet Bored Comedians
Meet Randy Liedtke, whose Tumblr describes him as "a stand up comic/cook at a gay bar/tall red head living in Los Angeles, originally from the beautiful state of Oregon."
HuffPo interviewed Liedtke, who admitted that he set up fake accounts for a number of food companies that had no Twitter presence. His plan wasn't nefarious -- he sent no negative tweets. He simply thought it would be funny for the companies to one day realize that no one in the office had control over their Twitter account.
When he signed-in to the long-dormant fake account, he noticed that his friend, Kinane, had tweeted about the product negatively. So he favorited it. And then he favorited everyone else's comments, replies, and other Pace-related tweets, giving them the impression that the account was malfunctioning.
Eventually, the prank spiraled into fake company employees, direct messages, and perhaps the funniest fake Twitter battle imaginable.
And that free salsa? It came from Randy.
You can't handle a faux-beef on Twitter better than Campbell's did:
@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
Except, perhaps you can. Even if you lack the resources necessary to create and monitor Twitter accounts for every single product that your company makes, your flagship brands at least need to be covered.
Pace Salsa? There is no better salsa out there. It needs a Twitter handle, preferably one owned by the company, rather than by a bored comedian. This exchange turned out well, because it was funny, and because it didn't go too far. But imagine the damage to your brand that could ensue with a less-reserved prankster. Not everyone who hears about the initial Twitter battle will see the updates about the hoax. (Indeed, we learned about @Pace_Foods from an out-of-date blog post.)
And for all of your trademarks, brands, and products, your social media team should have monitoring tools watching for tweets, blog posts, or other online mentions, just in case someone has run amok with your intellectual property.