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jennifer boynton headshot

Can McDonald’s Turn Its Twitter #McFail Around?

They say the definition of insanity is behaving the same way and expecting a different result.

If that’s the case, then McDonald's twitter feed has been crazy all year.

First it was the #McDStories campaign, where McDonald's asked customers and other stakeholders to tweet their favorite stories about McDonald's using the hashtag #McDStories. The company’s PR firm was expecting nice responses like “Meet some of the hard-working people dedicated to providing McDs with quality food every day #McDStories” and “When u make something w/pride, people can taste it. #McDStories”

Of course, they got something quite different: 

And those aren’t even the nasty responses. The power of the consumer on social media meant that McDonald's soon lost control of the campaign. #McDStories became a trending topic and people were inspired to jump in and participate, but their responses were mainly sarcastic, witty and mocking.

Did McDonald's learn their lesson?

Sadly, no. Just a few weeks after they had to pull the #McDStories campaign, they were at it again, with another twitter campaign in honor of Shamrock Shakes. This time around, customers were supposed to take pictures of themselves and their shamrock shakes and upload them to Twitter with the hashtag #shamrocking. The idea was to imitate planking and other Internet memes where people upload silly pictures, but the thing is, people don’t like corporations to define their memes for them. It’s kind of inauthentic.

Of course, it was much easier to mock the company and attach the hashtag, which is what twitter users and other stakeholders quickly did.

This goes to show that Twitter is one advertising platform where companies have yet to achieve full control and their campaigns can go haywire very easily. Consumers have a lot of power in this medium, and hashtags can be used by anyone to make negative comments as well as positive ones. Sadly, in the case of brands (like McDonalds) where consumers have a lot of positive and negative feelings, the temptation to poke fun is just too strong.

The lesson here is that brand managers need to figure out how to embrace the lack of control – or else tread carefully with online campaigns if consumers and activists feel strongly about your brand.

Third Time’s the Charm?

McDonald’s latest Twitter campaign may prove to be a bit more successful, since the company has narrowed its focus to one targeted group: kids. The latest campaign, #happymealchef, is a contest to promote family cooking. The winning parent and child team will get a chance to go to London, take in some Olympic sporting events, and cook in a cooking competition.

Click through to the #happymealchef hashtag, and you won’t find a single naysayer or thread highjacker. Why? Well, first, no one wants to rag on kids, and second, this is a legitimately cool opportunity that people are excited about.

Rather than asking its stakeholders to do something for them (share their #McDStories or submit a silly picture of a made up meme), McDonald's is doing something for their stakeholders. And the news is spreading, and it’s being well received.

Kids are some of McDonalds biggest fans and most loyal customers. The company is choosing wisely to design its social media campaigns around them. By focusing on these core supporters, McDonald's will be using social media more effectively to improve its brand value and connect with fans.

Jen Boynton headshotJen Boynton

Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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