Thinking through Marketing Strategies: When Social Media Marketing Flops

mccauley servicesIn a recent Twitter marketing campaign, fast food giant McDonald’s attempted to highlight the origin of its food with the hashtag #MeetTheFarmers. The tweets featured links to the restaurant chain’s website which emphasized the stories of the company’s suppliers. The following tweets in the campaign series included the tag #McDStories.

What followed was probably not what McDonald’s marketing professionals expected. Twitter users began to lash out against the restaurant using its own marketing hashtag. Even though McDonald’s own tweets were at the top of results listings when the hashtag was searched (because they were promoted tweets and retweeted enough to remain high on the results page), those with the most negative #McDStories tended to be the loudest and most common users of the tag. Examples of the worst stories include the following:

  • “My father used to bring us to McDonalds as a reward when we were kids. Now he’s horribly obese and has diabetes. Lesson learned #McDStories”
  • “#McDStories Take a McDonalds fry, let it sit for 6 months. It will not deteriorate or spoil like a normal potato. It will remain how it was.”
  • “I once ate at McDonalds. Never, ever again. #McDStories #truestory”

These are some of the tamer responses that McDonald’s experienced from Twitter users. When writes from the website paidContent spoke with Rick Wion, the restaurant’s Social Media Director, he said the negative Tweeters took the company by surprise, but that they quickly changed course to help reverse the damage. Though the hashtag was only tweeted two times by McDonald’s account, the stream of negative responses was overwhelming.

For McDonald’s, the good side of this public relations disaster is that their main Twitter message—“When u make something w/pride, people can taste it”—remains a top search results. Wion says that McDonald’s chooses its social media marketing words and phrases cautiously, but regardless of the care taken to plan a social media campaign, detractors will inevitably chime in.

This story illustrates the importance of careful planning and customer relationship management when considering a social media marketing campaign. Once you release an idea or hashtag into the social media world, it’s impossible to take it back. Consider what negative responses you could plausibly receive and adjust your efforts or prepare yourself for recovery.

For more information on social media marketing, check out our frequently asked marketing questions. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter pages for the latest in market and small business news.