Shawn Nesaw

Arguably the most popular brand in America, McDonald’s came under scrutiny as of late with a Twitter campaign turned negative. As USA Today reported , during a social media effort to encourage Tweeters to share their positive experiences from McDonald’s, the megabrand developed the hashtag #McDStories. Although intended for positive, the #McDStories hashtag quickly turned to a tell-all of the awful and even disgusting experiences customers had at a McDonald’s location. Obviously not the point McDonald’s was driving toward, they quickly pulled the hashtag campaign and began a bit of damage control.
Social media thrives as an open forum; an important medium for engaging customers and audiences.  While critics or negativity might appear, a strong strategy will prepare a brand for handling the adversity and building yet more trust with loyal customers.
Develop a strategy
A strategy may be designed to engage customers in sharing personal anecdotes in order to define how engrained the brand has become for those customers. The forum still exists for those who are not brand loyalists. With the proper planning, negative responses could be met with a customer service approach to address the grievance offline and in a one-on-one exchange. Potential questions to consider:

  • What key messaging will you use?
  • How will you respond to negative responses?
  • How will you tout the positive?
  • How will you monitor you followers, content, responses, etc.?

Developing a plan to address these questions will help you in implementing a strategic social media plan, aimed at promoting your business and services in a positive light, controlling the chatter about your business from behind the scenes and never being caught off guard.
There’s no doubt McDonald’s had a strategy in place when the #McDStories campaign launched, and by monitoring responses, they were prepared to end the banter and it remained a mere percentage of the overall social media discussion about the organization.
Use specific criteria
In creating a social media campaign or promotion, be very specific with your audience about what you want or expect from their responses, eliminating room for interpretation. For example, McDonalds could have garnered more positive responses by simply specifying their hashtag with something like #McDfaves or #McDsBest. This clearly tells the audience to respond with positive experiences and removes the openness to simply share a story – positive or negative.
Turn the negative to positive
With social media, you can’t ignore the fact that there will be negative mentions about your business. The open platform is a perk for users and they often take full advantage. Be prepared to take the negative and turn it to a positive by addressing from a customer service perspective. For example, in McDonalds situation, they could respond to the negative #McDStories Tweeters and offer to make their negative experience into a positive with a discount or free offer. This makes the end user feel heard and important. They’ll appreciate the attention and remember that positive act over the negative they first experienced.
USA Today article: