Was McDonald’s Twitter problem really a ‘McFail’?

Commenters to our story on the hijacking of two promoted hashtags from McDonald’s question whether the problem was as bad as some reports suggested.

Naturally, many bloggers and reporters are calling it a “McFail.”

Last Thursday, the company’s official Twitter account unveiled two hashtags, #McDStories and #MeetTheFarmers, as promoted tweets. The effort began in earnest with these tweets:

A lot of love and passion goes into producing the beef for our burgers – evidence shown here: http://mcd.to/zlfnM1 #MeetTheFarmers

“When u make something w/ pride, people can taste it,” – McD potato supplier #McDStories.”

But things quickly went wrong for McDonald’s. Twitter users hijacked the hashtag with tweets such as:

“Unfortunately, the only taste I get out of McD’s is “despair” RT @McDonalds When u make something w/pride, people can taste it #McDStories”

While animals rights groups seized the hashtag to share unsavory (and that’s putting it lightly) images of McDonald’s food and animals. The Daily Mail compiled a list of some of the more entertaining and grisly.

Now, the majority of the tweets mention McDonald’s social media “fail” and note that it will be a popular case study for PR and marketing teams.

Rick Wion, McDonald’s social media director, said the company stopped promoting #McDStories within two hours. “While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the supplier stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned,” he said in a statement. “We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

“As Twitter continues to evolve its platform and engagement opportunities, we’re learning from our experiences.”

Wion told PR Daily that within hours of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell from a peak of 1,600 to a few dozen.

“There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald’s overall that day, so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage of that,” he added.

In an interview with PR Daily last year, Wion suggested Twitter users published “unexpected posts” to keep the account interesting and its followers entertained. Seems the company accomplished this goal, although not with the results it might like.

Ultimately, will this social media hiccup have any effect on McDonald’s? The company will always have its critics and even the people slamming McDonald’s on Twitter admit to eating its food. Plus, McDonald’s released its fourth quarter numbers today, reporting a net income increase of 11 percent, which beat analyst predictions. Seems likely that investors will be paying closer attention to that report than those about a Twitter hashtag gone awry.

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