A funny thing happened to McDonald’s on the way to social media marketing, and now everyone’s talking about it. Where once the hashtag seemed like a great way to start a positive story line, there is now distaste. By now it’s commonly known that when McDonald’s executives encouraged the public to Tweet using the hashtag #McDStories, they expected happy tales from Big Mac loving fans. But they didn’t get that. Some of the resulting Tweets with that hashtag were utterly distasteful, causing executives to quickly change course on that social media campaign. A similar thing happened toAustralia’s Quantas Airlines when it offered gifts for the best stories using the hashtag #quantasluxury. One unflattering Tweet said: “#qantasluxury is chartering a Greyhound bus and arriving at your destination days before your grounded Qantas flight”. Ouch. This is not how things were supposed to go.
Therein lies the problem for brands attempting to gain influence and friends through social media campaigns. Positive feedback isn’t guaranteed. Additionally, sharing can quickly feed into grudge-bearing and axe-grinding. Humans aren’t robots and in social media it’s more difficult for brands to exert control over what is shared and what is unsaid. It’s important for brands to consider all the possibilities before entering a social media campaign, and to prepare for the worst case scenario ahead of time. But all isn’t lost. None other than Coca Cola has proven that social media can work. The company’s Facebook Fan Page was created by a couple of people who really liked the product. When Coke executives discovered this, they didn’t try to shut the guys down but instead invited them in, gave them a company tour and encouraged them to make a video about their experience with Coke. And to date they all are living happily ever after.