By adaptive - March 30th, 2015

Lessons learned from every Social Media Manager's worst nightmare.

Social media can be quite the double-edged sword. On one hand, successful campaigns can boost brand equity and have a direct positive impact on a company’s bottom line—all for a fairly low cost. For example, spending on traditional media is often 5-10 times the cost of spending on social media, with the results of social campaigns yielding similar—if not better—results! On the other hand, unsuccessful campaigns can be detrimental to a company’s reputation. Once any sort of damage is done, it may take a company months, if not years, to repair. On top of this, social media can be highly unpredictable. While some outlandish campaigns end up hitting the bulls-eye when it comes to engagement, other campaigns that start out with the best of intentions end up as total failures.
Today, we’ll be looking at a classic example of a campaign that begun with a good idea, however took a quick turn for the worst--#McDStories by McDonald’s. This is meant to show that in the realm of social media, no one is too big or small to mess up—and the bigger you are, the harder you fail. 

About the campaign:

#McDStories was a Twitter campaign meant to bring back the nostalgia of old, memorable McDonald’s traditions. 
However, instead of nostalgic, fun memories, the campaign spurred a proliferation of jokes about obesity, horror stories from customers and complaints of poor treatment by ex-employees.
Within 2 days of the campaign, the company had to remove the hash tag from Twitter due to the major negative reaction the campaign was having on the company’s brand image and reputation. However, this didn’t stop consumers! They continued the conversation for over a week afterwards, and unfortunately for McDonald’s, they were unable to remove the Twitter page.

So what went wrong?

For one, the company began the campaign with slightly unrealistic expectations. Not accounting for any negative reactions they might receive from consumers, the company simply assumed everyone had a positive perception of their restaurant and food. However, they quickly learned that this wasn’t the case.
Another issue may have been their choice of social media platform. Asking consumers to tweet about their McDonald’s experience was a poor choice. The speed and ease consumers have to share messages freely and quickly through the platform, as well as the lack of regulation or control available, make it risky to run topically dicey campaigns on Twitter.

So what could they have done better or differently?

One idea would have been to use a different social media platform to carry out the campaign. For example, if they had selected Instagram, consumers may have been less likely to post pictures of bad McDonald’s experiences (or they may not have kept or taken pictures of their bad experience to post). The company could have then linked the campaign to an in-store promotion to drive traffic and sales to the restaurant. For example, after asking customers to post a nostalgic memory, the company could have provided customers with a coupon or special offering to gain positive attention and popularity.
Overall, any campaign that gave them some control over the content their users generated would have been preferable to seeding #McDStories. Undoubtedly, they fell for the ease and simplicity of just telling people to tweet. When you know not everyone adores your brand (Had they really forgotten ‘Supersize Me’ so quickly?), and that’s pretty much every large brand on the planet, it’s well worth the time and effort to set up a more complex, thoughtful, and rewarding campaign. No amount of money and time is worth risking brand perception, no matter how tempting.
The Corporate Social Media Awards

June 2015, New York

The Useful Social Media Awards sets the standard of corporate social media excellence. The #CSMAwards recognize those in social media who are driving social business forwards

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