McDonalds has been encouraging people to tell stories in its Twitter campaign. Unfortunately, it got more than it bargained for.
To complement its ‘commitment to the quality of its ingredients’, McDonald’s posted a video on YouTube of Potato supplier Frank Martinez. It also posted:
‘When u make something w/pride, people can taste it," - McD potato supplier #McDStories http://mcd.to/zIlXXu’
This message appeared in promoted Tweets -- a paid for item, ensuring it appeared at the top of Twitter searches. Two hashtags were used: #McDStories and #MeetTheFarmers
When hashtags go bad
The hashtag, 'MeetTheFarmers' did not initially attract negative responses after the original message went out on Twitter
on 18th January. At first tweets were encouraging -- but within a day the tone changed.
No matter what you're eating, #ThankAFarmer for growing the food that is on your plate tonight. #MeetTheFarmers
I'm a farmer, but don't and won't grow anything for @McDonalds. #MeetTheFarmers
Hey @McDonalds, I'd like to #meetthefarmers who grow the dimethylpolysiloxane & tertiary butylhydroquinone for your fries!
These messages were mild however, compared to the flack happening over at the #McDStories hashtag. Within an hour McDonalds saw what was happening and stopped using the hashtag.
Unfortunately, the genie was already out of the bottle.
Rick Wion, McDonald's social media director said that when a media campaign was created, although words and phrases were carefully selected it was inevitable that, “fans and detractors will chime in”.
Of course, when you have a brand the size of McDonald’s, it's inevitable that some PR campaigns -- especially campaigns asking for Twitter responses, will bring in comments from detractors. Twitter hashtag themes can get hijacked by critics wanting to make their point to the global audience whilst focus is high.
Move on and learn
The vitriolic comments will fade in time as people stop poking fun and having their say. Social media managers across brands will breathe a sigh of relief that the hashtag debacle wasn’t one of their own Twitter campaigns.
McDonald’s will learn from this social media experience. The social media team has lots of interesting feedback and data to work with to improve its future campaigns.
It will also continue to sell more food and increase its global presence. It is creating at least 2,500 jobs across the UK this year and has an "excellent reputation for developing its staff" according to the UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.
A week long 'brand-jacking' event will do the company little or no damage at all.
Burgers, fries and McNuggets will still be sold to us in their millions. Whichever manufacturing processes are used to give us our fast-food ‘fix’…