Case Studies

April 6th, 2012

I’m Tweetin’ It! A Look at McDonald’s Twitter Strategy

This post is part of the Twitter for Brands Series, which features winning strategies from the top brand pages on Twitter and provides tips on how to emulate their successes.

The golden arches can be recognized around the world, from Shanghai, to New York City, Toronto, and Paris. Since it was founded over 50 years ago, McDonald’s has positioned itself as one of the world’s most popular companies. Now, thanks to social media, the corporation is now dominating the Internet as well.

On Twitter, the fast food chain has upwards of 342,000 followers. Its second account, McDonald’s Corp, which focuses on the company’s “history, our food, our people and news from our restaurants around the world,” has nearly 21,000 followers. Thanks to powerful feeds featuring helpful, relatable people, McDonald’s has retained a strong social media strategy on Twitter, even when it has been in the spotlight for major errors.

Keeping it Positive and Relatable

Aside from when Mickey D’s is promoting its newest products or the comeback of a favorite menu item (McRibs or Shamrock Shakes, anyone?), the Twitter resembles that of any other user. The company posts updates such as, “’If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you. If you’d never been born, well then what would you do?’ Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!” and “Happy Thursday everyone! Hope your day is off to a great start!” 

It even re-tweets updates unrelated to the company like “Those small words someone can say that makes your day ten times better. #LittleThings” and “I try to be the 1 person to stand up and do something for someone when everyone else sits and watches. #littlethings.”

It’s fitting that McDonald’s Twitter updates are positive and uplifting, considering that its trademark colors are bright, it serves Happy Meals, and its slogan is “I’m lovin’ it.” The company is all about happiness, and this effectively translates over to its presence on Twitter.

Along with never posting negative content, the McDonald’s Twitter feed is clearly run by everyday people. Its ten Twitter representatives sign their tweets with their initials, posting statuses like “It’s Friday! How is everyone this morning? ^MO” and “Good morning and happy Tuesday! Very grateful for the McCafé Mocha that’s about to help me get my day started! ^MO.” 

The advertising is in there, but it’s not so direct — people update their Facebooks or Twitter accounts all the time mentioning restaurants or products. Rick Wion, McDonald’s social media director, told PR Daily, “People want to connect with actual people on Twitter.” Instead of sounding like an automated machine, the company’s account is personal and heartfelt.

Paying Attention to Users

Both the original and corporate McDonald’s Twitter feeds are filled with replies to users, whether questions posed to the company deal with customer service complaints or friendly suggestions. 

When one user asked about adding a turkey sausage, egg white, and whole wheat English muffin to the menu, @McDonaldsCorp engaged in a dialogue with her, encouraging her to keep requesting it and speak to her local chain about it. 

When a customer pointed out that her breakfast didn’t taste good, @McDonaldsCorp apologized and gave her the number of its customer service hotline. 

Company employees will even send handwritten notes to dissatisfied customers after hearing about their issues on Twitter. According to The Realtime Report, “Several hundred satisfied customers have taken photos of the notes and posted the images on Twitter,” which helps remind McDonald’s of why its on Twitter in the first place.

Learning from McDonald’s Twitter Mistakes

Earlier this year, there was a media frenzy when a McDonald’s Twitter campaign went horribly wrong. Followers were prompted to share their stories about the company using the hashtag #McDStories. This was part of a campaign that was made “to focus on promoting that the chain bought fresh produce from farmers,” according to CBS News

However, many of the stories coming were “about food poisoning, drug use and comparing the smell of one of the eateries to dog food.” Although the company claims that only 2% of the tweets that contained the #McDStories hashtag were negative, the story of the failed campaign was heavily covered by the media.

There are a few lessons to be learned from McDonald’s gaffe. CBS News wrote that the hashtag itself should have included a positive connotation and not left room for criticism. 

Social Media Explorer’s Jason Falls said that McDonald’s should have looked itself in the mirror before trying to fool its followers. He argued that when someone mentions McDonald’s, the words “fresh produce” do not come to mind. 

When deciding on a social media strategy, it is crucial to figure out how your fan base actually perceives you. 

Despite the recent #McDStories debacle, McDonald’s has been a leader in the realm of corporate social media. By always keeping the customer in mind and posting optimistic updates, the brand has stayed in line with its established image and found success online.

Image courtesy of Flickr, City of West Hollywood


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