A Cautionary Tale About Promoted Tweets, Courtesy of McDonald’s

McDonald's has taken a social media beating over the launch of two Twitter hashtags broadcast with the help of promoted tweets. The hashtags, #McDStories and #MeettheFarmers, were intended to solicit positive tweets from McDonald's customers, and had the opposite effect.

One tweeter using the #McDStories hashtag wrote: "McNuggets was the last meat my wife ever ate. Said it was enough motivation to become a vegetarian. Still veggie after 10+ yrs," and another, "I bet McDonalds is rethinking this little social media experiment." A typical tweet at #MeettheFarmers: "CHUTZPAH ALERT: McDonald's farmwashing campaign. Their food is hyper-processed and full of chemicals."

It has to be assumed that McDonald's factored into its decision to launch the hashtags that there would be a rash of sarcastic and critical tweets. In fact, Rick Wion, social media director for McDonald's, told paidContent.org that he expected "fans and detractors to chime in." Still, he admitted that the #McDStories hashtag "wasn't going as planned."

Not every brand is such an easy target for Twitter critics, but the hijacking of McDonald's' hashtags and the power of its promoted tweets offer cautionary lessons for all digital communicators. We could all use some best practices on what to do when hashtags get hijacked by critics—because all Twitter followers are broadcast networks unto themselves.

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About Steve Goldstein

Steve Goldstein is editorial director of events for Access Intelligence’s PR News brand, which encompasses premium, how-to content, data and competitive intelligence for public relations professionals; PR News Online; PR News conferences, webinars and awards programs; and PR News guidebooks. Previously at AI Steve was editorial director of min, min ’s b2b and minonline as well as managing editor of CableFAX: The Magazine and CableWorld. Before joining Access Intelligence, he was executive editor of World Screen News, and editor of Film/Tape World, which covered film, television and commercial production in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • clint

    This was a big mistake on McDonalds part. I realize that it was meant to bring about positive tweets about McDonalds, but they had to realize that people would use this as a chance to criticize the company. Unfortunately people like to use social media sites to trash talk companies.