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Twitter trouble for McDonald’s

McDonald’s latest Twitter campaign with hashtag #McDStories has gone awry with users tweeting about their unpleasant experiences with the brand.

“Listen before you speak may be a hackneyed maxim – but it is one that big brands need to learn as they venture into social media. McDonald’s has a ‘supersized’ image problem, and putting up as vague a hashtag as #McDStories was really just a red rag to a bull,” Keith Timimi, chairman, VML Qais said.

Disgruntled users took the opportunity to vent their frustrations mentioning incidents such as finding finger nails in burgers, food poisoning or weight gain after eating at the fast food restaurant, rat sightings among others.

The hashtag was pulled two hours after it was promoted with McDonalds’ social media director Rick Wion saying “with all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned.”

Is it safe to pull the plug?

Pulling the campaign is not the best solution always, experts say who feel that risk assessment and having a contingency plan which goes beyond just pulling the campaign off are two key elements any social campaign should have.

Shutting down is defensive, said Gregory Birge, founder & CEO of f5Digital as it gives a clear signal that the brand is scared and is affected. He added that removing aggressive comments is okay but negative comments should be kept otherwise credibility is at stake.

According to Arvind Sethumadhavan, regional practice leader, social and ROI Analytics at Isobar APAC, it would have been safer to directly leverage on positive diner comments being posted on social media platforms as ‘user generated spontaneous testimonials’.

“As a response McDonald’s could have turned this into a ‘thanks for your feedback’ campaign with action plans on taking care of some of the issues,” he said.

“Kudos to McDonald’s at least for having contingency plans in place and pulling the hashtag down within a few hours, but it does make you wonder what the client and agency were thinking,” Timimi added.

What needs to be kept in mind?

Knowing your audience well before going big with your communication plans and steering the direction of the conversation instead of playing ‘hide and seek’, said industry experts.

“Much better to start small while listening and learning, build your communications organically – and hardest but most important of all, use the feedback gained to constantly improve your products,” Timimi said.

Birge added a campaign should not run independent but in sync with a clear brand / action messages that drives discussion plus drives experiences that potentially reward customers.

“Twitter is not a channel to engage audience on a debate unless the debate is somewhere hosted and people can share comments from that campaign. Digital is not about having creative ideas and open Twitter feeds, Facebook pages or websites/mobile apps using the same traditional approach,” he said.

However, the McDStories were not all negative.  One tweet shared a charity project to build housing for the families of hospitalised children, funded from the proceeds of the sale of McDonalds’ Happy Meals.

Its other promoted hashtag, #meetthefarmers, was deemed more successful and raised awareness of the fast food giant’s supply chain and those that work along it.

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