#McDStories Turns Ugly

McDonald's started the Twitter hashtag #McDStories to encourage people to post their thoughts about the company. The campaign started well enough with @McDonald's initial tweets:

But the social media promotion quickly turned into a "hashtag horror show." The hashtag made it too tempting for people to tweet their worst views of the company, such as these:



Where did McDonald's go wrong? Rick Wion, the company's social media director, explained his perspective:

"Last Thursday, we planned to use two different hashtags during a promoted trend -- #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories.

"While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the Supplier Stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned. We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

"Within an hour of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell off from a peak of 1600 to a few dozen. It is also important to keep those numbers in perspective. There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald's overall that day so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage (2%) of that.

"With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger."

Monitoring activity and recognizing failure are critical for social media campaigns. As Wion says, "As Twitter continues to evolve its platform and engagement opportunities, we're learning from our experiences." True enough: trending on Twitter can be a dangerous game.

Discussion Starters: 
  • Why do you think #meetthefarmers was successful but #McDStories was not?
  • Should McDonald's have anticipated this outcome and not introduced the hashtag, or was the reaction too hard to predict?
  • Wion talks about having a contingency plan. What do you think that entails? How should companies prepare for social media campaigns that fail?