The Target Data Breach: 3 Lessons For PR Pros


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We analysed more than 77,000 social media posts and interactions following the news in December 2013 of a consumer data breach at Target. This ebook contains our research and analysis including:
Which social media users had the most influence in the wake of the breach
How Target’s efforts to address the news affected social media
The three lessons for PR pros based on the findings

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The Target Data Breach: 3 Lessons For PR Pros

  1. The Target Data Breach What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media Data Analysis: Dec. 17, 2013, 12:00am — Jan. 9, 2014, 12:00am By Brenna Hagy, Senior Account Executive MSLGROUP in Boston @MSLGROUPNA (781) 684-0770
  2. 2 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media We’ve all heard about it by now. It’s been plastered all over the news and could reportedly affect up to one-third of the U.S. population. Target announced on January 10 the theft of personal information of as many as 70 million additional customers as part of the company’s payment card data breach in December 2013. When added to previously disclosed numbers, that brings the grand total to 110 million impacted consumers. 110 Million Impacted Customers Information Stolen N am e MailingAddress Pin Numbers Credit + Debit Card Numbers Email Address
  3. 3 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media The tech team here at MSLGROUP in Boston wanted to go beyond the media attention swarming the Target breach. We focused in on how this incident made significant social media chatter, and what it can teach us about the relationship between social and traditional media. To do this, we turned to NUVI, the new Business Wire social media monitoring tool. After setting up a search with specific terms and keywords , NUVI churned out real-time data: who was tweeting what, who has the most influence, which links were shared the most, the sentiment of the tweets and much, much more. We monitored the aftermath of the Target breach from December 17, 2013 to January 9, 2014—more than 77,500 tweets; Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and Google+ posts; and mentions on blogs—and came to three general conclusions. Analyzed 77,646 social mentions between December 17th and January 9th, including the keywords: @target data @target breach @target credit card breach @target unauthorized #target data #target breach #target credit card breach target data breach The peak of conversation happened on December 19th at 12pm, During this spike, there were 5,649 mentions. The most frequently used keywords during that time were Data breach, 40 million customers, Christmas, Hackers Stole Your Data and Massive Target Breach. (+) Positive conversations included the words safe, want, resolved, secure and free credit monitoring. (-) Negative conversations included the words stolen, affected, frustration, apologizes and scams. The NUVI report
  4. 4 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media 1. Target Was Able to Control the Message…Somewhat Once the story broke on December 18, Target stepped into action. Target issued a press release on December 19 confirming the breach, and the social media universe consumed it. During our 23-day analysis, the URL link to this release was the third most popular tweeted and shared URL overall within social media activity discussing the breach. Definitions In•flu•en•cers: The Influencers List and score are determined by NUVI’s own algorithm laid on top of Klout’s algorithm. NUVI’s algorithm culls information together from the topic of the individual’s tweets, info in the individual’s bio, what industry they tweet about most often, etc. Re•shares: When one person retweets another’s tweet. Reach: The direct number of people who can see a tweet. Spread: The number of retweets of a specific tweet. Trending Now
  5. 5 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media Target also released a slew of subsequent content including press releases, blog posts and videos. We tried to determine if the videos increased the social traction of those pieces of content. Because Target distributed the videos within blog posts, it was hard to gauge with the NUVI tool how they impacted engagement. However, no subsequent post was shared nearly as much as the original press release. Overall, Twitter users shared the @Target handle 944 times, making it the second most shared handle for the period covered. The moral of the story? Target did its best to control messaging and to show its presence in both traditional and social media, and did it pretty well. Rather than shying away and hiding in the wake of the breach, Target got out front and center to address the story and make sure its message was heard. MINNEAPOLIS — December 20, 2013 Target Data Security Media Update MINNEAPOLIS — December 24, 2013 Target Data Security Media Update #3MINNEAPOLIS — December 21, 2013Target Data Security Update: Tips for Consumers MINNEAPOLIS — December 19, 2013 Target Confirms Unauthorized Access to Payment Card Data in U.S. Stores Issue has been identified and resolved MINNEAPOLIS — December 20, 2013A Message from CEO Gregg Steinhafel about Target’s Payment Card Issues MINNEAPOLIS — December 27, 2013 Target Data Security Media Update #4MINNEAPOLIS — December 23, 2013 Target Data Security Media Update #2
  6. 6 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media 2. The Most Important Influencer Was Hidden From View One of the great security reporters, Brian Krebs, broke the news of the Target breach on December 18 at 2:33pm with a blog post on During the first 24 hours after breaking the news, Krebs’ tweet with his story was the eighth most reshared, and the URL link was the third most shared. Over the entire period of the study, the URL link to Krebs’ story was the seventh most shared. While Krebs’ piece was not as highly reshared as other media stories, and his Twitter account was not ranked as one of the top ten influencers for the period covered, he was mentioned in 86 articles about the breach. Plus, his Twitter followers grew by nearly 3,000. This tells us that while Krebs influenced the media, the media influenced Twitter. And, in this case, the most important influencer—the person who broke the story—largely flew under the radar of social media monitoring. • #8 reshares in first 24 hours • #3 trending URL in first 24 hours • Fell to #7 on list of trending URLs overall • Krebs had 86 media mentions Breaking News Target Investigating Data Breach -Brian Krebs, Krebs on Security December 18, 2013
  7. 7 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media NBC news 98 3. The Top Influencers Were Professional Media Twitter Handles Twitter handles owned by media outlets dominated the conversation and the list of top influencers throughout the period of the research. Some of these outlets had influencer scores in the upper 90s, and are among the most well-known media brands. The top ten influencers overall were: Forbes 99 AP 99 HuffPo 99 LATimes 99 ABC 98 Yahoo! 98 NPR news 97 WSJ 99 USA Today 96
  8. 8 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media A mix of media outlet-, journalist- and analyst-owned social media properties socialized content with the widest spread. The handles whose tweets spread the farthest with retweets and reshares were: handle @BenDiPietro1 @foxnewsvideo @ABC @germanotes @KimBhasin @GMA @ABCNewsRadio @NewsMatt @ForbesTech @PierreTABC Spread 7,687,962 7,199,282 4,649,309 3,871,333 3,709,412 2,973,971 2,957,108 2,798,444 2,684,125 2,212,030
  9. 9 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media In the first 48 hours, when looking at the data hour by hour, non-media Twitter handles would occasionally appear on NUVI’s index of “Top 10 Influencers,” but would quickly drop back off the list in the next hour. This all comes down to timing. When a non-media Twitter handle created chatter by issuing tweets, that handle had a chance to pop on the radar for a short period of time before competing with a tweet from a media contact. These non-media handles—while boasting very high influencer scores—were not able to stay on the list for any significant amount of time. The non-media influencers who cracked the top ten list, at least for short periods of time during that initial two-day period, were: Influencer @kellyhclay @FabeWash31 @KidFury @tedubya @MatthewKeysLive @TolkienLibrary @WaterWayRealty @jeffcarroll @manuel_c @KamalFaridi Score 80 80 80 79 78 73 71 71 69 68 Influencer
  10. 10 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media Lessons Learned Taking a step back, what does this mean for those of us involved with social media management? 1. Socialmediamonitoringisamarathon,notasprint:Flippingonsocialmediamonitoringonlyafter a major event or piece of news will distort the reality of your social influence world. Media-owned socialmediaproperties will“drownout”theinfluencersthatmatteraspartofanongoingcampaign. To find the non-media influencers impacting your market, monitor the social media universe for the long haul. When news hits, look within the resulting media coverage to find influencers that are included in the articles. Track those influencers over a “quiet period” without news to gauge their impact. Only with long-term monitoring and analysis can a company understand the key social media influencers that will impact online engagement and community development. 2. Traditional crisis rules apply to new media: Follow Target’s lead on this. Be proactive, honest and communicate. This is key to earn trust and try to control the message. As Target issued press releases or posted to the blog, it also issued a tweet with the content to create consistent and open communication across all channels. 3. For breaking news, nothing beats traditional media: No doubt about it—the social media universe responded to the Target breach. However, the top ten influencers were all Twitter handles owned by media outlets. Seven of the top ten most shared URLs were links to articles from the likes of NBC News, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and CNN Money. While it is imperative to engage in social media, nothing beats mentions in top-tier publications. That is what, more often than not, moves the visibility needle for any brand.
  11. 11 The Target Data Breach: What it Teaches PR Pros About Social Media MSLGROUP’s technology practice works with innovators of all sizes, from venture- backed disrupters to some of the largest brands in the world. Our clients leverage innovation to transform business, power the connected consumer, and even save lives and the planet. As a global technology agency, we’ve taken hundreds of companies from garages to greatness, and re-ignited many established brands to expand leadership and forge new markets. Our content-centric strategies are rooted in a deep understanding of clients’ business and technology. We can draw the architecture on the white board, but more importantly we translate those technical advantages and innovations into fascinating content, connecting market and consumer benefits to strategic audiences to boost engagement, sales and market brand and leadership. Follow us on our blog at @MSLGROUPNA (781) 684-0770