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Pace Picante Twitter hoax exposes issues with big brands on social media

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Last night, Monday, Dec 2, it was revealed that the hilarious Pace Picante social media fail was actually a hoax perpetrated by a known prankster, Randy Liedtke. If you're not familiar with the backstory, comedian Kyle Kinane shared an interesting conversation he believed he was having with popular salsa retailer, Pace Picante. The conversation, according to Kinane, led to what he believed was the firing of one the Social Media Managers for Pace, and a hilarious discussion on Monday across social media. The problem was, it wasn't an official Pace brand.

On the surface it was a hilarious prank, but here's why the joke exposed a bigger issue with big brands and social media.

Kyle Kinane first fell into the Pace Picante trap after he tweeted something negative about Pace, who then favorited, Twitter's equivalent of a like, the tweet. Kyle then proceeded to tweet multiple negative things about Pace, all which were favorited as well. "Pace" then apologized for favoriting the negative tweets, blaming a problem with their social media robotics system.

The problem there is that no one flinched at that apology. No one questioned why a "big brand" was using bots to handle their social media. It was expected.

Kyle then got into a crazy argument via direct messaging on Twitter with multiple Social Media Managers for "Pace". None of which seemed to have a logical response to Kyle's questions and complaints. With one employee, "Miles," eventually flying off the rails and sending a picture of himself flicking off Kyle from his personal account. And Pace, again, apologized, claiming that one of their Managers had taken it too far. And, again, no one flinched.

Which brings us to the biggest problem. The reason the joke worked so well is because we believed it without a thought. Because big brands and customer service on social media have become synonymous with bots and mishandled responses.

Take Bank of America this year, who replied to someone's protests about their foreclosure policies on Twitter with a robotic response asking to help with their personal banking account problems.

Then there's American Airlines, who replied to joke about recently cut Raiders Quarterback Matt Flynn, asking if they could help Mr. Flynn with his flight problems.

The list goes on and on regarding failed customer service on social media, and the Pace Picante hoax should serve as a good lesson to big brands on social media: customer service is serving the customer, not just responding.

What's the point of a response on social media if it doesn't serve a purpose? Does a robotic response to every tweet directing an irate customer to call your physical customer service desk fix the situation in any way?

No, it does not. And the believability of the Pace Picante hoax should serve as talking point for big brands that the way they are running their social media is not the way it should be done. Hopefully, big brands can learn from this, and work on bringing the social back to social media.

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