McDonald's launched a campaign on Twitter this month with the goal of getting consumers talking about the brand in a positive light. But the plan backfired and caused a storm of critical and derogatory tweets.
The fast-food company created the hashtags #McDStories and #MeetTheFarmers to get consumers talking, but the conversations that happened weren't what McDonald's expected. Followers tweeted about eating McDonald's food while intoxicated, throwing it up, the quality of the food, and more. The company even had a back-and-forth dialogue with PETA about allegations that McDonald's mechanically separates its white meat.
Following the Twitter fiasco, Rick Wion, McDonald's social media director, issued a statement to the press, saying the company is “learning” from the experience.
McDonald's runs many campaigns on social media, like the “Do you want fries with that?” Twitter contest and the live global media webcast promoting its sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Games. One possible reason this latest Twitter initiative failed is because it was less controlled than previous contests and campaigns. The social space can be dangerous because it gives people the freedom to write anything they want and hide behind the computer screen.
McDonald's isn't the first brand to have a Twitter campaign, and it won't be the last. Entenmann's saw negative backlash from a tweet last summer. When Casey Anthony was acquitted after her murder trial last summer, Enternmann's saw #NotGuilty was trending on Twitter, so it tweeted “Who's #notguilty of eating all the treats they want?!”
The Margulies Communications Group, Entenmann's PR agency, and Likeable Media, its social media firm, both apologized for the tweet, which many consumers found insensitive.
Companies and brands need to be careful with the hashtags they create and the messages they tweet. The social media world is vast and unpredictable, and once the tweet is posted, it's out there forever.