A good example of a corporate social media fail is McDonald’s Twitter campaign using the hashtag #McDStories in January 2012. This hashtag was designed by McDonald’s marketers to open up a forum with farmers who were engaging with the brand through social media. It was also meant to encourage Twitter users to engage with their brand by sharing heartwarming stories about their experiences at McDonalds. It did not take long for McDonalds to realize that this campaign went horribly wrong. Although some used the hashtag for its intended purpose, a large number of Twitter users decided to hijack the promotional hashtag, bashing McDonalds and sharing their personal horror stories instead. The fast food restaurant faced all kinds of accusations from unsatisfied customers. It was accused of making customers vomit, serving pig meat from gestation crates, and serving a burger that contained a finger nail. One user also claimed to have chipped a tooth while another said she had been hospitalized for food poisoning as a result of eating there. McDonalds paid to have the #McDStories hashtag promoted on the Twitter homepage but they quickly realized the campaign had backfired and reports claimed that they pulled it within a few hours. And although this significantly reduced the number of tweets, it did not stop people from sharing their criticism. Twitter users are still using this hashtag today and the tweets written during the campaign are still out there.
McDonald’s positive message intended to raise awareness was an easy target for shots of criticism and negativity. McDonald’s marketers should have maybe thought harder about the consequences of this campaign and had a stronger strategy for the conversation not going as planned. The #McDStories hashtag was too vague, leaving too much room for the whole Twitter world to bash the fast food chain. An article written by Cristina Avila of the University of Waterloo, states that it is important for marketers to keep in mind that consumers are 7 times more likely to share negative experiences over positive ones. Social media platforms give users the power to say whatever they want to say, and when people are given the chance to say something negative about something they don’t particularly like, they will.
This campaign was a fair attempt at planned content. McDonald’s was trying to make an effort to create something useful and inspiring while trying to further build brand value among consumers. It was also custom and personal in the fact that it was meant for individuals to speak out and share their personal stories and positive experiences. But in many ways it was canned content. It seemed as though the campaign was too quick and it was most definitely too general. McDonalds could have created a more specific campaign which solely targeted their fans, instead of asking millions of Twitter users. A few related online articles suggested that McDonalds could have run this campaign via Facebook, where its 69 million fans would have been more likely to share stories about their positive experiences with the brand. Although the idea and purpose of the #McDStories Twitter campaign was fairly smart, it was most definitely a social media fail.