McDonald’s: Hashtag #McFailure?

Should all companies fear using social media?
 

Would you like hashtags with that? You’d think that McDonald’s would reply with a strong ‘heck no’ after it launched a Twitter campaign last Thursday using the hashtag #McDStories which yielded poor results.

McDonald’s launched the Twitter campaign with this hashtag to share and elicit feel good stories about the restaurant, but precisely the opposite happened. Twitter users hijacked the hashtag and started sharing negative and comical stories about the chain across the Twitterverse.

What’s a hashtag
For those of you not familiar with Twitter and its lingo, a hashtag is a word or phrase with a pound sign in front of it. Twitter members utilize hashtags when trying to follow a conversation, be part of a conversation or get a topic trending and talked about on the social media platform. Unlike your domain, which you have complete control of, hashtag creators have no way to dictate what can and can’t be said about a hashtag.

How to avoid hashtag pandemonium
It’s stories like this that hinder companies from participating in social media campaigns. Yes, it’s scary, but if you have a good head on your shoulders, you can avoid the situation altogether.

  • Use hashtags that are well defined and focus on what you are promoting
    McDonald’s made the mistake of using a hashtag that is very vague. Promoting the hashtag #McDStories gave the world the opportunity to take it and make it their own. As, consumers are unlikely to complain about promoted tweets that boast deals or free stuff, McDonald’s would have been better off promoting #FreeMcCoffeeDay.
  • Don’t promote a hashtag that gives people the opportunity to complain on Twitter
    Let’s face it. There will always be some people who do not like your brand. If you want to hear happy, feel-good stories about your services, you are better off asking for those types of stories on your Facebook page where fans have already confirmed that they “Like” you.
  • Know the sentiment around your brand
    If your brand is highly controversial or political, promoting a tweet that prompts opinions or stories only feeds the fire. Be extra careful, and think ahead about what may happen if you promote a tweet.
  • Test hashtags before you promote them
    To test the waters, it is a good idea to test a tweet with your followers before you promote it worldwide. That way, you can get a feel for the campaign and work out any kinks

    What Should McDonalds Do?
    From a PR standpoint, McDonald’s hashtag crisis is only a minor hiccup. Dozens of articles about the hashtag mishap are pouring out into the public and as the saying goes, no publicity is bad publicity. With all eyes on McDonald’s, the chain has the chance to turn the calamity into an opportunity.

Not to mention, they’re not the first restaurant chain to suffer from hashtag whiplash. Wendy’s faced similar consequences with the #HeresTheBeef campaign.

The company could use all the press to run a great deal and get more customers in the door. That’s what Taco Bell did last year when it was slapped with a lawsuit for selling fake beef. The chain offered customers Crunch Wrap Supremes for 88 cents to raise awareness that their meat is 88% beef and 12% signature recipe.

We applaud McDonald’s for at least being brave enough to jump into the social media arena. Sure it’s easy to bash on someone when they mess up, but few talk about the company’s social media campaigns that were a successes –such as the Party with the Big Mac campaign.

Heather Lutze

Author: Heather Lutze

Heather is the widely acclaimed speaker, trainer, and consultant who literally wrote the book on search engine marketing. Two books, in fact—The Findability Formula: The Easy, Non-Technical Approach to Search Engine Marketing and the brand new Thumbonomics: The Essential Business Roadmap for Social Media & Mobile Marketing. Her writing and in-demand keynotes and workshops are delivered with the same witty, “no-geek-speak” style that has managed to demystify internet marketing for countless business owners.