For several years now, we have been talking about this new age of communication, where the gatekeepers who used to control access to mass audiences have been rendered irrelevant. The power of our social media tools and networks – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, et al – gives anyone the potential to directly reach an audience of thousands, even millions. And with great swiftness – in a matter of seconds – they can impact a brand … for better or for worse.
McDonald’s recently reminded us that no brand is safe in this age of the unthinkable, where social networks can wield unimaginable power over any corporation. But, this time, the gatekeeper started the fiasco. What McDonald’s envisioned as a positive promotional campaign instantly turned wrong.
McDonald’s sent the following promoted tweets:
- “When u make something w/pride, people can taste it,” – McD potato supplier #McDStories http://t.co/HaPM5G9F
- “Meet some of the hardworking people dedicated to providing McDs with quality food every day” – #McDStories http://t.co/BoNIwRJS
Seems like a great plan, right? Create a campaign about the instrumental people behind McDonald’s and tell their stories.
Instead, the #McDStories hashtag was born and the rest is history – a history McDonald’s would like to forget. From tweets about being hospitalized for food poisoning after eating McDonald’s to finding Band-Aids and worms in the food, there is clearly a large contingent of folks not “lovin’ it.” Don’t these stories just make you want to run out and get a Big Mac? De-licious.
As the hashtag spiraled out of control, McDonald’s social media experts and strategists were likely wondering what they could have done differently. How did their hashtag go rogue?
It reminds us of the importance of developing a sound social media strategy. With any communications strategy, you must always discuss the potential pitfalls of your initiative. Should McDonald’s have been surprised by the negative stories being shared? Not at all. They just opened the floodgates.
Yes, it’s a mega corporation with millions of dollars to spend on controlled advertising and marketing, but no amount of money can stop a social media backlash, especially from a corporation that continually gets negative coverage. Hello, Pink Slime. (Yet another reason to go grab a burger from good ol’ Mickey D’s, right?)
My advice – Before you start any conversation on your social media channels, think it through completely, and try to envision how each segment of your followers will react. Once it is out there, it’s hard to take it back. Will they love it or hate it? Will it give them a platform for praise or criticism? Remember, not everyone has to agree with your posts, tweets or uploads. A two-way conversation is one thing; actually, a healthy thing. But a one-way backlash can do irreparable damage to a brand.
The rise of social media is only gaining steam. You lovin’ it? You should. Yes, there are risks, but the opportunities are greater if you are thoughtful of every action and considerate of your audience.
— Sarah Brewster, Account Supervisor