If anyone suggests to you that social media lay the yellow-brick road to huge fundraising or provide the silver bullet to finish off negative responses to your company, just smile sweetly and back away. Like any power tool, social-media platforms offer opportunities to do fine work to reach out to new customers, and they offer the chance to do serious damage to your organization in a stunningly brief period of time.
The most recent victim of a social media/PR blitz that went awry is the McDonalds‘ corporation, who wanted to put a human face – one interested in good food – on its restaurant chain. But for a while, it looked like Mickey-D’s slipped terribly out of its own control.
McDonalds’ isthis problem (and it won’t be the last). We are not trying to pile on, but such examples are good teaching moments. In this case, of how advertising through controlling hashtags can open the door to unwanted feedback.
Rick Wion, McDonald’s Director of Social Media,who provide the foodstuffs to McDonalds. The hashmark in question was #MeetTheFarmers and 18 January was to be the day of the promotion. Early responses were favorable, if not huge. But, for reasons left unexplained, the hashtag was changed to #McDStories in the early afternoon – and all hell broke loose.
For a couple of hours on the 18th, #McDStories became the proverbial piñata by which vegans, comics, and haters of the chain for whatever reason pounded the organization (see the tweet above). Wion and his colleagues readjusted and by about 4:pm of that day the McDStories fiasco was draining away in the Tweet stream:
It would seem that the damage control was effective, and by replacing #McDStories with #meetthefarmers so quickly, the negative tweets slowed down to just a small trickle. To put this in perspective, on January 18th, there were a total of 72,788 tweets mentioning McDonald’s–Wion says the brand normally averages 25,000-30,000 mentions daily on Twitter. Just 1600 of these tweets included the #McDStories hashtag–a small drop in the daily bucket. (quote taken fromon The Real Time Report website)
The lessons taken from this brou-ha-ha have ranged from accepting that such things can happen. McDonalds has not retreated from the field, though. The corporation began a new campaign with the bought tag #littlethings a few days later.toward McDonalds and Mr. Wion in particular to
Certainly any social-media campaign must be planned around, as well as how to adjust if you want to raise the energies of the communication. In one sense, Wion and McDonalds opened themselves up for ridicule – especially given the fact that the original hashtag was drawing some response anyway. Yet, Wion and his team were listening and responded within a couple of hours of seeing their plan go awry.
As we have often discussed on this blog, social media is a communications medium, which means all sides are listening and responding. If you think you can post an idea or video and sit back and watch the world fawn before your idea, you will be in for a shock – a shock either at the silence or at the unexpected ways people will run with your idea.