Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back on the recent Twitter campaign from McDonalds, it’s perhaps easy to point the finger at where the company went wrong. The lure of social media is considerable for big brands; marketing consultants constantly evangelise about the benefits of reaching out to customers through avenues such as Facebook and Twitter, and often these campaigns reap great rewards for companies large and small. But sometimes, these campaigns can take on a life of their own, leaving the companies wishing they’d stuck to handing out flyers instead.
It started a few days ago, on 18 January, when McDonalds embarked on a feel-good Twitter campaign, using the hashtag #MeetTheFarmers.
It was hoped that the tweets would highlight the company’s commitment to sourcing fresh vegetables and high-quality meats. Later on the same day, McDonalds started using the second of the campaign’s hashtags, #McDStories.
With that, McDonalds had inadvertently equipped web users with all the ammunition they needed to destroy the campaign. It didn’t take long for things to go wrong, as users began to tell their own stories – and these were not heartwarming tales of good times under the golden arches.
Within minutes, Twitter was filling fast with stories that Ronald McDonald would rather not hear, and even today – days after the launch of the campaign – the hashtag is alive and well with thousands of such stories being shared across the interwebs.
This selection of tweets is, of course, just the tip of a very big iceberg. Check out the #McDStories hashtag on Twitter to see some more of the valuable McNuggets of feedback that McDonalds has been getting on its campaign.
It took just two hours after McDonalds posted its first #McDStories tweet for the company to accept that things had completely spiralled out of control, beyond the point of no return. Rick Wion, social media director for McDonalds spoke with PaidContent.org to acknowledge the problems of the campaign: “Within an hour, we saw that it wasn’t going as planned. It was negative enough that we set about a change of course.”
Unfortunately, by that point, the hashtag had been well and truly hijacked by the internet at large, repurposed by web users keen to have their say about the fast-food chain. As Wion himself pointed out, it’s a reality of any social media campaign that “fans and detractors will chime in”, but McDonalds was evidently unprepared for the extent of the negative backlash that the campaign unleashed upon them.
But hey, some lessons need to be learned the hard way.