On the latest episode of Social Biz, I discussed McDonald’s failed hashtag campaign and discussed why it failed.
If you want the whole story, head on over and watch that episode, but let me give you a quick recap. McDonald’s was encouraging Twitter users to tell their McDonald’s stories with #McDStories. Unfortunately, users decided to post mostly negative comments about the fast food giant and how terrible their service, food, and restaurants are.
The campaign failed for two reasons:
1.) It was requiring longer responses on a medium that only allows 140 characters. Because of this restriction, those that would have had positive things to say, simply didn’t say anything. Meanwhile those that wanted to poke fun at McDonald’s were still able to post their quick and short zingers. Instead the company should have solicited responses on YouTube in the form of comments or video responses on the video they linked to in the original tweet. They could have even used Facebook. Essentially, people couldn’t tell their stories in that small of space, so they didn’t.
2.) They were hoping for positive responses, and were soliticting those responses on a platform that is literally impossible to manage. McDonald’s can’t delete negative or outrageous tweets, but they can delete YouTube comments or Facebook comments. I’m not advocating censorship by businesses on social media; however, I do believe if something is offensive, unsubstantiated, or posted simply out of hate, a company should delete those comments. On Twitter hashtag streams, there’s no ability to do that.
The good news is, this failure in the original hashtag campaign did not stop McDonald’s from using Twitter. According to Mashable, they started a new campaign today, and it would appear they listened to the advice I provided.
The fast food giant introduced the talking point with the following tweet, which hit at 11:42 EST: “No line at the bank, a large tax refund, & those extra fries at the bottom of the bag. What are some #LittleThings that bring you joy?”
Despite the open-ended nature of the campaign, so far few users have used the hashtag as a forum for bashing the brand or taking the conversation in off-color directions. Responses so far include “a good cup of coffee in the morning” and “a child’s laugh.”
Much better McDonald’s, much better.
One word: simple. This isn’t asking for long stories, it’s asking for “little things.” It couldn’t be more blatant. The hashtag is obvious, it does not need explanation, and it’s asking for short, concise, “little” answers. It is exactly what Twitter was designed for. Meanwhile, it offers little room for lampooning. Obviously McDonald’s hopes people post “little things” that they do to make their day better, and while something like “a child’s laugh” has nothing to do with the company, it doesn’t make them look bad. As a matter of fact it will probably put a smile on someone’s face, and with the link back to McDonald’s, that only helps.
The overall lesson here fits closely with what I discussed on the last episode of Social Biz. Know the medium you’re starting a campaign on. Understand how your audience uses it, the limitations that platform has, and what can and will be successful on it. If you misunderstand any of these points you put yourself at risk for a PR disaster initiated by you – which is like rubbing salt on the wound.
Jacob Bodnar is the Founder of Red TIE Media, and hosts Status Update every Sunday at 7pm EST on the network, as well as video podcasts Social Biz and The Thursday. You can email him directly at jacob at redtie dot tv or on Twitter (@JacobBodnar).