Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When Social Media Attacks

Oh my. There was a social media bloodbath on Twitter today as a McDonald's hashtag campaign went horribly wrong.

In an honest attempt at sparking some nostalgia and happy memories, McDonalds decided to implement the hashtag, #McDstories, hoping people would share some of their favorite traditions and experiences with the company. Instead what they got was a tidal wave of unhappy memories, anger, sarcasm, and negativity. The responses were bad. Really bad. In the end, McDonalds reps pulled the tweet after two hours of the onslaught.
Now the question becomes, was McDonalds wrong to start this hashtag? Personally, I don't think so. Let's be honest, Mickey D's is a big part of American life. Especially now, with busy parents and a hurting economy, kids grow up with a lot of fast food. It's pretty realistic to think that some people might have some good memories. Maybe the people that are really happy with McDonalds are too young to be tweeting? It's only in the last ten years or so that the golden arches have really stepped their game up. Their food still isn't the healthiest, but it's much better than it used to be. They're extremely innovative and efficient and they are sincerely trying to improve themselves.
So while the idea was a valid one, it may not have been thought through enough. Perhaps McDonalds should have considered their spotted past and the age groups of Tweeters.

There are important implications to this fiasco for any and all considering using social media as their medium. Social media is an open forum which means people can say whatever they want! Use caution when starting something that could go viral, like a hashtag or a video, because you can't moderate how people use it. Commenting and sharing can clearly be positive or negative. In Dii, we see this all the time with pharma brands who fear adverse event reporting. While I think social media is becoming a necessary stage, a little of this outlook is a good thing. It is absolutely essential to have a contingency plan; a way to swiftly deal with a situation gone wrong. I think McDonalds acted well in this situation. They tried to let it play out, but then removed the hashtag and issued a statement quickly. Failing to respond well to a crisis can do irrevocable damage to brand image, whether it is ignoring the issue or greeting the press with a horribly unbelievable statement.

The point I'm trying to make here is that there is a process to going about campaigns. First understand the situation, medium, implications, and potential successes and failures. Second, prepare for the failures, just in case. If everything looks good, go ahead, at least you'll be ready for whatever happens.

If you want to see more of the tweets (and some of them are hilarious) visit Gizmodo

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