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.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI

1 Comment


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.

Deals of the Week

Get $200 Off PR News' Digital PR Conference

Join us June 1-3 where you'll hear from top brands such as Walmart, Miami Heat, Verizon and Ritz-Carlton on PR and communication best practices for the next wave of digital trends.

Use code “200off” at checkout to save $200 on the regular rate.

Get $50 off PR News' Book of Employee Communications


In this 5th volume of PR News’ Book of Employee Communications, our authors cover more than 45 articles on crisis communications, social media policies, human resources collaboration, brand evangelism and more.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription


Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

  • 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.