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#McFail? McDonald's Twitter Campaign Gets Hijacked

Wednesday, 25 Jan 2012 | 12:26 PM ET

Give consumers a microphone, and they'll have something to say — it just might not be what you want to hear. That's a lesson McDonald's learned once again, the hard way.

McDonald's
AP
McDonald's

Last week, the fast-food chain was forced to pull down a social media campaign it had launched on Twitter using the sponsored hashtag #McDStories.

Hashtags are clickable links Twitter users can place on their posts to aggregate tweets on the same subject.

McDonald's had hoped to promote the quality of their ingredients. They first used the hashtag #MeetTheFarmers, and all was well, but then they switched to #McDStories, expecting fans would share their positive experiences. Instead, the tag became a way for animal activists and less-than-satisfied diners to air their grievances.

McDonald's quickly pulled down the promoted hashtag, but it lives on. There's also a new one that's grown popular — #McFail — which is being used by those discussing the fiasco.

Such is the way of social media marketing: It can backfire spectacularly.

As the Financial Times points out, McDonald's is only the latest victim. There have been similar backlashes against social media campaigns from brands such as rival fast-food chain Wendy's and Australian airline Qantas.

McDonald's social media director, Rick Wion, told PaidContent.org:

“Within an hour, we saw that it wasn’t going as planned,” said Wion. “It was negative enough that we set about a change of course.”

Wion continued to say in the report that McDonald's carefully selects the words and phrases it uses in promoted tweets because it is inevitable both "fans and detractors will chime in."

In Wion's Twitter feed, @rdublife, he is still discussing the incident and he shared a statistic: On the day of the promotion, there were more than 72,000 mentions of McDonald's and only 2 percent were negative.

To some degree, there is a certain bit of negative feedback that must be expected in every social media campaign, especially when it involves companies such as McDonald's that have a history of being a lightning rod for criticism.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Christina Cheddar Berk on Twitter @ccheddarberk.

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