The social media experts working for McDonald’s might want to consider finding new day jobs. One of the fundamental considerations when working inside the realm of social media is understanding that whatever can go wrong likely will, especially when the prospect of turning something negative is likely.
This week McDonald’s launched a campaign for their suppliers in which they asked them to use the hashtag #McDStories to share positive events that have occurred because of their partnerships with the fast food chain. As any social media expert with more than five minutes could have predicted it turned ugly very quickly.
Once customers heard about the hashtag campaign they began using it to tell stories about fingernails, hair and other disgusting objects being discovered in their McDonald’s meals.
In announcing the campaign McDonald’s tweeted:
Meet some of the hard-working people dedicated to providing McDs with quality food every day #McDStorieshttps://t.co/BoNIwRJS.”
What followed were tweets that included:
“I haven’t been to McDonald’s in years, because I’d rather eat my own diarrhea.”
“One time I walked into McDonald’s and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up.”
In attempting to cover up his own massive mistake McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion told Paid Content:
“Fans and detractors will chime in.” and “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 for McDonald’s once a campaign goes viral a simple “change of course” isn’t going to cut it. It’s bad enough to be part of a negative trend on one of the largest social media websites in the world, it’s even worse when you didn’t think about the possibility of such an event possibly happening in the first place.
There’s a lesson to be learned here, you don’t own a hashtag, unless your extremely confident in your brands ability to make most customers happy you’d be better off starting a Facebook campaign that you can at least control through invited comments.
It may have been even more effective if McDonald’s asked their suppliers to tweet about positive aspects of working with the company and then retweeted those comments on the official McDonald’s Twitter page without the need for a hashtag, once again giving at least a little bit of control back to the fast food chain and it’s social campaign effort.
How do you think McDonald’s could have better handled the Twitter campaign?