The day my Twitter got hacked

twitter-birdI have been on Twitter since 2007. Initially I was hesitant to join this 140 character world, it just didn't make sense. But my good friend Aaron Oliver convinced me it was worth the experiment. An experiment that within the year turned into a habit, a habit that turned into an addiction. The experiment, like many of my social media experiments steamed from a hyper curiosity about the world around us. How, when and why our society is becoming increasingly digital. Every week, startups around the world push the world forward to embrace and adopt the digital world around us. Twitter has been around for ages, and soon enough, everyone I knew had an account. This is when I started thinking seriously, what is my place in this party? After realising what exactly made me want to avoid Twitter, I also realised the right thing to do is probably join in the discussion. At the time I was working in an industry that was breaking down new barriers every month. So the answer was obvious, thought leadership. Quickly I built a reputation as one of the thought leaders in the mobile financial services space, every topping a global influencers report put out my Obopay.

For some social-media-conscious business owners, discussing the importance of Twitter might be akin to swapping thoughts about the importance of breathing. Twitter has become not just a microblogging outlet for individuals and celebrities, but also for big brands, such as Coca Cola, Starbucks and Victoria's Secret. Twitter's popularity, though, goes beyond the global exposure it offers to people and brands. It's also a listening tool and a means for building community. And that was exactly what it became for me, a community of people that helped my thought leadership.

Having spent years in the startup space, driving brand and consumer growth using the principles of Growth Hacking and Lean Startup, I decided that these models would fit perfectly for developing my community. So back in 2011 I started a series of experiments, turning my knowledge of conversion funnels into a great way to engage the world in my thoughts. Some experiments were a failure, and some succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. But was was clear, was the buzz I got from engaging new communities, people and discussions. Experiments ranged from wording experiments on multi-tweets, to LinkedIn Group engagement, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and the list goes on. A owe huge thanks to Gary Vaynerchuk, who shares awesome yet practical ways to engagement social media.

Over a two and half year period I was able to build a community of just over 28,000 people, brands, communities and more. An awesome bunch of people continually contributed to the dialogue, pushing not only myself to continue to grow, but also push the advancement of the thought leadership. The excitement from such a dialogue is an addictive drug, one that become a part of me.

On the weekend after returning a from a trip to Dubai, I noticed a weird email in my inbox:

Your Twitter password has been reset

It was strange, because it was a rare day that I hadn't been on twitter that day. So I had no idea why I was getting the email. I decided to jump online and check it out. What I found hit me hard.


My account had been hacked, renamed and email changed swiftly. The email chain suggested in less that 5 minutes. My community of 28,000 followers were now following @BigPromoChamps and being blasted with spam. I was devastated, not only because years of work had been high-jacked, but because a community of people that I had great respect for was having spam spread all over them from an account that was associated with myself.

What do I do?

Having never been in this situation before, I had no idea what to do. So I immediately contacted Twitter support through their My account has been hacked page. My poor faith hoped that Twitter would respond and fix the situation. I was hesitant to rejoin Twitter over the weekend, as I absorbed the gut wrenching experience of having seven years of work destroyed by the horrid actions of a selfish moron that has hacked, and high-jacked my Twitter account. But Twitter's only response was:

Thank you for letting us know about this. We are transferring your request to the appropriate team, who will investigate and get back to you at this email address. Thank you for your patience while we look into this.

My despair turned to anger, like Anakin Skywalker's turn to the dark side. My head full of vengeful thoughts, schemes to unveil the identity of the person that did this to me.

You low life scum. For someone to decide that the best use of your time is to hack people's hard built twitter accounts and convert them into spam bots shows real character. People like you should ostracised from society. You represent everything that scares the world's population from embracing the wonderful digital innovations. I only hope that Twitter has the decency to show the world who you are, so that you can be publicly shamed. If not, I am more than happy to donate to the bounty for efforts to expose you.

You disgust me

A timely wine catch-up with two of the regions strongest in social media yesterday turned my thoughts from vengeance to progress. As I was reminded of the reality that Twitter support will be of little help, and I am best to get back on the horse and startup again, immediately. So I jumped on my tablet, and re-registered for Twitter. Luckily, because the hacker had changed the account ID, I was able to regain my old twitter handle @scottebales. And the journey starts again.

It's not going to be easy to rebuild the community I once had, but I am determined to bounce back stronger than ever. To rebuild a community of influence, to rebuild respect with my followers and reestablish my name as a thought leader.

You can help me on this ambitious journey by re-following me, and sharing with your friends, colleagues and peers that I have a new Twitter account. Simply ask them to re-follow me. I'd be eternally grateful for your support. I'll aim to regain those 28,000 before the year is out. It's going to be a tough climb, so every new follower counts. Please follow, and spread the word.