02/02/2012 08:56 GMT | Updated 02/04/2012 06:12 BST

Ask McDonalds How Not to Do Social Media and PR

No matter how good PR brands create for their current objectives, but their past history play an incredibly important role in how people would accept the brand messages today; especially almost everyone is broadcaster today and has audience for their voice. Everyone has a voice in today's world of digital and social media; thus brands must be all ears. This is unfortunately something many businesses failed to realise; because they think they can control and direct conversations in social channels similar to some of traditional techniques they used to employ for communications purposes.

So, brands still have time to take social media seriously and stop thinking about ways around it and or how to control it; it is almost impossible.

One of the latest social media activities which went wrong is a campaign ran by McDonalds. They recently started a campaign on Twitter promoting #MeetTheFarmers, just to show how good McDonalds is, but suddenly they changed gears to #McDstories; which unfortunately backfired when people shared their horrifying stories.


Although McDonalds keeping a good balance between broadcasting and engagement, they failed to realise developing a Social Media campaign has roots in brand history and how people perceive a brand.

Business Insider was in touch with McDonalds with regards to the situation the fast food chain found itself in; and below is what McDonald's Social Media Director Rick Wion has to say:

"Last Thursday, we planned to use two different hashtags during a promoted trend - #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories.

While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the Supplier Stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned. We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

Within an hour of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell off from a peak of 1600 to a few dozen. It is also important to keep those numbers in perspective. There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald's overall that day so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage (2%) of that.

With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger."

With all due respect, what Mr Wion said seems a cover up to something which's gone very wrong; pulling out a hashtag doesn't mean conversations on Twitter are over or McDonalds' brand perception is changed among people! It in fact means that McDonalds chose to ignore what people have to say and stop listening to their true stories; this can be the worst PR for a brand like McDonalds. Mr Wion goes on saying "the traction of #McDStories was a tiny 2%" of overall McDonalds mentions on the day campaign went live. This seems brand development, reputation management and customer loyalty are lost in McDonalds' Social Media strategy.

Seeing this situation, which is rather crisis faced McDonalds, a "small blip" by Mr Wion, Social Media Director at McDonalds, says a lot about the culture and way of thinking at the fast food chain. What people have been and still saying under #McDtories on Twitter indicates that things are slightly bigger than a "small blip"; as everyone still remember about McDonalds frozen meat, poor employee treatment and Super Size Me documentary film etc.


Needless to say, Social Media is people media and any kind of marketing campaigns are almost uncontrollable as brands aren't in charge, unless they engage with people and care about what they have to say.