McDonalds’ struggle to control the #hashtag

Marketers keep telling brand owners to use social media to engage their customers. But there are times companies must wish they had just bought a print ad instead.









McDonald’s Twitter campaign with its associated hashtag #McDStories “When u make something w/ pride, people can taste it  – McD potato supplier” included a video to a happy farmer and intended to encourage others to tell their own fond tales of McDonalds.

After having launched the campaign it proceeded uneventfully until after only a couple of hours McDonalds responsibles could see that it wasn’t going as planned.  Twitter has soon been lighting up with a bonanza of crude, funny or devastating zings at McDonalds. The hashtag quickly became a “bashtag” as thousands of Twitter users used it to make marijuana and food poisoning jokes.

Weeks after this marketing fiasko the original #McDStories tweet remains a “Top Tweet” (a tweet which captures an especially high engagement with the Twitter community).

Has McDonalds learnt its lessons from the bad PR though? Recently, McDonalds suffered another hashtag hiccup on Twitter just two months after its last effort backfired disastrously. Twitter users are already linking the fast food giant’s new hashtag #shamrocking with an obscene sex term.

At the time, the social media manager for McDonald’s suggested that these incidents may be inevitable when a brand that is both loved and hated engages in social media. Could McDonalds, however, at least have come up with and established a contingency plan which would outline a rough plan laying out how to react in and deal with such disagreeable situations? In fact, social media should not exclusively be associated with the upside potential it can have for a company but the downside should actually always be insured against at the same time too.

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