By: Dennis Maurice Dumpson
McDonald's recently made an unsuccessful attempt at trying to strengthen their allegiance with customers across the country by asking for stories, #McDStories to be exact. McDonald's made a huge mistake in asking people on twitter to share their McDonald's stories without directing the conversation appropriately. So what is a company to do when they want their customers to share their positive stories? Well for starters, make sure you control the conversation -- quite honestly that is where McDonald’s went wrong. This is your brand...protect it! Unless McDonald's plans to create a spin-off of what has worked famously for Domino's Pizza --- sharing your flaws and customer discontent and making changes accordingly in the face of the public --- this was a huge #McFail. Here are a few tips on what McDonald's and companies of the like can do to avoid Social Media tragedies.
1. Research, Reach Out, Reward
Reach out to people who have been faithful supporters. The biggest mistake people make with social networking is that they become delusional and think it’s as simple as: I post, people rave, we win --- NEGATIVE! You start all good marketing efforts by reaching out to people and gathering a team of people who support you --- we call that Buy-In. Research your Twitter mentions, do a search to find people who really have had great experiences with your company; in essence do your research. Once you've found people from across the country send them a Thank you DM (Direct Message) or an inbox message, maybe even include a free coupon thanking them for being a loyal customer. Chances are they will probably be so thankful for the thank you and coupon that they will share it with their friends and their friends will want a piece of the free coupon action, too --- don’t be afraid to reward your customers! Also, research organizations with huge social media communities to share their great experiences. I am sure McDonald's has supported organizations, community programs, etc. and now is the time for you to reach out to those organizations asking them to share why they go to you for support. They will be more than happy to help since you’ve awarded them support in the past.
2. Build Deeper Relationships & Be Clear
Make those great supporters your leading social media ambassadors. They've already said favorable things about your company, now continue to cultivate a deeper relationship with them (Yes, even McDonald's can build DEEP relationships!). Engage those supporters, send a retweet of a quote they’ve sent out. They’ll be so excited and impressed by your attention that they’ll have a smile every time they connect with you. In addition, a better option instead of asking for #McDStories would have been to share those stories you’ve researched from your company profile with a hashtag that is clear and shares what you want people to know about your company --- #ThatWasGood or #TheyreLovinIt --- #McDStories is too open-ended and leaves room for people to write good or bad stories (and we all have seen the route people have traveled). I know this may still be a bit superficial in terms of true "connecting," but let's face it, you've connected and built something more personal than you had; and the quality of interaction has increased, because you directed the conversation appropriately.
3. Encourage a Celebration
McDonald's participated in what I like to call, LSMM - Lazy Social Media Marketing! You've asked millions of random strangers (and be clear they are strangers, they have no connection to you outside of their digested McRib from last week) across the country to share their stories... And what did you expect to come of this again? There was no direction on how this benefited the customer or why it was important to your company. Maybe if McDonald's approach was "We want to hear from you! Share your positive stories and your story and twitter name maybe featured on an upcoming commercial, our website, or in select McDonald’s restaurants.” they would have seen a greater, more favorable response. Some simple Quid Pro Quo works wonders --- McDonald's forgot the power of a good back scratch! Now you've given people a reason to write favorable comments or experiences --- this doesn’t mean that people will not still be snarky and rude, but it will surely even the playing field of negative and positive comments.
Many think that companies like McDonald's shouldn't do e-marketing or social media campaigns, but I do not agree. I believe there is more work that has to be done before you jump into the pool of public opinion and start connecting with followers, fans, etc. Outreach is essential, doing that initial research can benefit your brand in great ways. Secondly, build relationships with your followers; word of mouth is still the best form of marketing around, so give them a reason to support you. And last but not least, people love to celebrate give them a reason to embrace your brand and let them know that everyone WINS when they support you! Simple planning, good research, and thoughtful connecting could avoid your next #McFail!
About the Author
Dennis Maurice is an author, publicist, fundraiser, marketer, and culture enthusiast in Philadelphia, Pa. Learn more at: http://www.dennismaurice.com