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McDonald’s Social Media Goes Wrong? Not a Chance

You’d have to be living in a cave not to be aware of the now historic McDonald’s Twitter campaign launched a few days ago. If you’ve been out of it for a while, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

McDonald’s promoted a Tweet using the Twitter hashtag #McDStories that went like this: ‘When u make something w/pride, people can taste it,’ – McD potato supplier #McDStories‘ (source). The link is a video  of McDonald’s potato supplier Frank Martinez and includes a heartwarming story about his life as a potato farmer.

Shortly thereafter, consumers from around the world ‘hijacked’ the #McDStories hashtag with, to say the least, some horrible tweets about McDonald’s food quality and overall experience.  You can read the most notorious ones here at the Daily Mail and here at Business Insider.

According to McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion:

Last Thursday, we planned to use two different hashtags during a promoted trend – #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories.

While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the Supplier Stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned. We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

Within an hour of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell off from a peak of 1600 to a few dozen. It is also important to keep those numbers in perspective. There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald’s overall that day so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage (2%) of that.

With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger.

Since that moment and for the past week, the media attention to this has been ruthless and extremely negative.  Just type in McDonald’s Horror Stories into Google to see a sampling.

Rick Wion: This Fry’s For You

Go to any one of the news articles mentioned above and read the comments.  There you’ll find pundit after pundit throwing McDonald’s and its social media director Rick Wion under the bus.  Well, here’s what I think of that.

  • If we’ve learned anything about social media, it’s that we have no control and that we HAVE TO experiment. Today I listened to Todd Blackledge, former Penn State University quarterback talk about his mentor, Joe Paterno (at Paterno’s public funeral). During his speech, he said this one saying that reminded him of JoPa: “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal.” So what if #McDStories didn’t work out as planned? McDonald’s asked for feedback and received it, learning along the way just as Domino’s Pizza and JetBlue have learned and rebounded in there particular situations. Point = If you aren’t experimenting with social media right now, you aren’t trying.  Good for Rick.
  • When McDonald’s saw how negative the hashtag was getting, they quickly pulled the promoted tweet and changed directions.  From what I can tell, this took an hour or so. Next time, I have a feeling they’ll be able to move in 30 minutes. Point = Social media is real-time. McDonald’s showed that they had their ears open.
  • In reading through the comments on this post, Rick Wion (aka rdublife) himself was commenting on certain points brought on by readers that were incorrect. Point = Know when and where to comment when social media turns on you. McDonald’s knew better than to respond to the flurry via Twitter, but definitely were proactive in other channels.
  • Not too long after this PR nightmare, McDonald’s started yet another hashtag, this time using #LittleThings. So far, the responses have been fairly positive. Point = Get back on the horse. That a boy Rick!
  • I’m tired of all the comments that said “McDonald’s should have known better”. Why is that? According to BazaarVoice, 80% of all online comments and reviews are positive. Yes, we all know what’s bad about McDonald’s and Coca-Cola and Budweiser, but most of the time, people stay friendly. Heck, just ask my kids about McDonald’s. It’s like heaven on earth. Point = For the most part, when you ask for feedback, it’s positive. 

Look, I may be seeing this issue with a “the glass is half full” mentality, but the media are all drinking the same Kool-Aid here. Did it turn out great? No. Was it a “horrific catastrophe” as some have proclaimed? Not even close.

From what I can tell, McDonald’s has been laying low (compared to some like Burger King) on the social media front for some time (even with almost 300,000 Twitter followers and 13.8 million Facebook fans). Now they are trying to get into the game…a whole new ball game from what they, or anyone else, is used to. Reminds me of how Wal-Mart took it nice and slow and made some mis-steps before getting into the online retailing game (btw, for Black Friday in 2011, Wal-Mart was the second most visited site behind McDonald’s is now taking this whole social media content thing pretty seriously,  including this example of its crowdsourced mini-movie experiment.

Although I may be the only one, I like the direction McDonald’s is going with this and I’m looking forward to the next idea.

What say you?

Image Credit: the ePerspective