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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