This past week fast-food giant McDonald's rolled out a 24-hour promoted (That means they paid for it) Twitter campaign to illicit positive stories from suppliers. The campaign first used the hashtag #MeetTheFarmers. The intent of the campaign was to focus on their organic potato farmers and encourage people to think "Healthy" when they thought of McDonald's. "Meet some of the hard-working people dedicated to providing McDs with quality food every day #McDStories http://mcd.to/ylOG3a."
The campaign proceeded uneventfully until they started using their second hashtag #McDStories. Though they only used the hashtag twice, the campaign blew up almost immediately and turned into a channel for consumers to post negative comments instead of positive stories. @MuzzaFuzza tweeted"I haven't been to McDonald's in years, because I'd rather eat my own diarrhea." "One time I walked into McDonald's and I could smell Type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up," read another tweet.
In an interview with PaidContent, McDonald's social media director Rick Wion said, "Within an hour, we saw that it wasn't going as planned. It was negative enough that we set about a change of course."
Have a look at this video produced by Mashable:
There are lessons to be learned here. Social media campaigns whether on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or any other social network are intended to open a two-way communication between a brand and its customers. That's the whole point isn't it? Companies engaging in social campaigns must understand they are unpredictable and be prepared to handle any situation before their reputation is damaged. There must be a crisis plan in place BEFORE the campaign launches. Here are some things to consider when you respond to negative feedback:
- Be sure you are monitoring the campaign 24/7. and don't stop monitoring after you've resolved a negative comment.
- Be a part of the conversation even before it goes bad.
- Don't bury your head in the sand and think it will be short-lived or go away. Acknowledge the situation before it gets out of control. Respond quickly to the situation.
- Engage with the customer. Confirm with them exactly what they are tweeting about. The more you know the better you can respond.
- Listen to the customer and don't be confrontational. Assume what they are tweeting about actually happened.
- You've spent a lot of time building your brand, now be true to it.
- Be honest and attempt to re-build trust with your customer. Tell them the company's position on the issue and don't be afraid to say "we're very sorry" if that is what's called for. Offer a solution.
- Respond to each customer personally. Don't prepare "The Company Line" and copy paste all day long. Remember, responses must be sent as quickly as possible.
- Build your crisis plan before you launch your campaign and the follow it!
- Never vary from the crisis plan. Keep your message on point. You put a lot of time into creating the plan. Let it do its job.
Companies can learn from McDonald's social folly. A certain amount of backlash should be expected. If you have a well thought out crisis plan in place, stick to it and you will weather the storm. Most importantly, remember once you send your tweet out into the twittersphere, you can never take it back.