#McDStories – A Social Media Campaign Gone Wild

By Matter

I’m sure you’ve seen all the ballyhoo around McDonald’s #McDStories campaign that has backlashed in a big way.   Designed to get followers sharing their favorite stories about the brand, people took to Twitter to share instead their disgust and distaste for the Big Mac of fast food.  There’s a public relations lesson here, and not just for one of the world’s biggest consumer brands.

From a PR perspective, it’s hard to blame McDonald’s for going out and trying to engage consumers in a way that would stir up nostalgia or charming anecdotes.  However, for a brand that has struggled with its brand perception and with America’s obesity rate higher than ever, it becomes easier to blame them for not being more thoughtful about the channel.  I’m not saying things wouldn’t have run amok if this was only done on Facebook – but I do think they would have had more control on their own page.  I find it hard to believe that no one brought up the possibility of a Twitter campaign going negative, fast.  And, if that’s the case and they thought it was worth the risk – well, then, they are probably realizing now the risk was far greater than the reward.

McDonald’s has had a ton of people piling on them for this – but I do see a bigger lesson here for brands on social media and their strategy for each channel.

It’s easy to say that every consumer brand should be on the biggies: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.  But it’s not the “where” in social media that is the most important, it’s the “what” and “how” they engage on each channel that is critical.  Brands need to realize that every channel comes with its own risk and it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before embarking on a campaign aimed at engaging a large number of consumers.

On Twitter, the negative campaigns and social media missteps “go viral” in the blink of an eye.  People want to be in on the joke – so they pile on – even if they don’t necessarily have a negative perception of the brand.    With hindsight being what it is, I can confidently say it would have been far better for McDonald’s brand not to be on Twitter at all than to have this campaign go the way it has.

So, what should brands do? Research and identify the channels that make the most sense for your brand. Weigh the risk vs. the reward of running a campaign on each channel.  And, listen to skeptics who bring up the “what if” scenarios.

Chances are, if you have one skeptic on your team, you’ll find a million of them on Twitter.