by Gina Rossi

In terms of worst Social Media Campaigns of 2012, McDonalds falls in first place for the year. McDonald’s Twitter promotion campaign originally was intended to encourage people to tweet with two hashtags: #MeetTheFarmers and #McDStories. Unexpectedly, the second hashtag turned into a major #McFail.

While the #MeetTheFamers hashtag was the first to debut on Twitter, later in the day is when it transformed into the disastrous #McDStories.

The Huffington Post shows both of McDonald’s original tweets from which the hashtag #McDStories was created. Once these paid-for tweets were posted, the global fast-food chain would quickly learn that it was not the type of direction they were hoping for.Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 9.02.52 AMMcDonalds intentions were for Twitter users to share their best stories/experiences with its services/food so the company could interact and engage with their customers. But immediately, #McDStories switched from positive to negative tweets.

Twitter users began telling gross, distasteful stories using this hashtag and it soon began to take a life of its own and appeared on promoted trends. The Daily Mail explains McDonald’s promotional campaign as a hashtag “hijack”. This is when Twitter users change the context of a hashtag and shape its meaning into something else. This is how McDonald’s fast-food horror stories surfaced and turned into a media uproar.

CBS News reported that McDonald’s was monitoring their Twitter responses and had stopped promoting the hashtag just within a couple hours of its launch. They tried to ignore the negative tweets and start the new, innocuous hashtag, #littlethings. This idea to cover up the bad remarks with another hashtag did not do the company any justice.

After this Social Media disaster, McDonalds had definitely learned its lesson with Twitter. When creating a hashtag, McDonalds needs to choose more carefully in what they come up with. #McDStories is a simple, catchy hashtag, but it was not clear in what type of context is should be used in.

Another mistake by McDonald’s was the way they tried to hide their mistakes and not talk about it. As soon as the campaign took a turn for the worse, McDonalds should have apologized and tried to fix its mistakes. By pretending nothing happened and not interacting with Twitter users only sends the message that McDonalds does not take pride in their customers.

Inc. gives great tips on how to avoid the same mistakes McDonalds made on its Twitter campaign. For example, in times of a social media crisis, it is always better to stay engaged with users. It is better to try and change any negative views instead of pretending they do no exist. Staying silent only worsens matters and shows customers that their opinions really do not matter.

If I were able to change this entire campaign, I would start by choosing a hashtag that could not be easily taken out of context. Just by placing the word “best” in front of #McDStories would have made a world of difference for McDonalds. Then, to take it a step further, McDonalds could have offered prizes for the #BestMcDStories and have them retweeted on their page. This would encourage positivity and drive users to want and participate. After all, who wouldn’t want to be retweeted on a verified account along with winning a prize?

References

Fiegerman, S. (2012, November 25). 11 Biggest Social Media Disasters of 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://mashable.com/2012/11/25/social-media-business-disasters-2012/

#McDStories, McDonald’s Twitter Hashtag Promotion, Goes Horribly Wrong. (2014, December 18). Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/mcdstories-twitter-hashtag_n_1223678.html

Roberts, H. (2012, January 24). #McFail! McDonalds’ Twitter promotion backfires as users hijack #McDstories hashtag to share fast food horror stories. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2090862/McDstories-McDonalds-Twitter-promotion-backfires-users-share-fast-food-horror-stories.html

Sherman, E. (2012, January 27). How McDonald’s Twitter campaign fell into the fire. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-mcdonalds-twitter-campaign-fell-into-the-fire/

Thomases, H. (2012, January 25). McDonald’s Twitter Mess: What Went Wrong. Retrieved February 14, 2014, from http://www.inc.com/hollis-thomases/mcdonalds-mcdstories-twitter-mess.html