Our food. Your questions. McDonald’s and harnassing the power of the social web

via McDonalds.com

Whether you love or hate McDonald’s as a restaurant, it is difficult to deny that they’re doing an impressive job with their social media campaign. In addition to a well set-up and regularly maintained website and Facebook page, McDonald’s recently launched a program which allows users to submit questions to the fast-food giant online. According to the description in the header, McDonald’s will answer all questions about their food posted on the site and so far, there’s been a lot of interest.

Questions appear in individual boxes on the main page and visitors to the site can scroll through to see which questions have already been asked, as well as the answers that have been provided. Users are also invited to “follow” pending questions by signing in via their Facebook or Twitter account and are notified when an answer has been posted.

Questions range in tone and matter; with some posting easier to answer questions such as why McDonald’s began making the McFlurry, to more loaded questions such as why the company includes the use of monosodium glutamate, an artificial substance known to be highly addictive. It will be interesting to see how McDonald’s tackles the difficult to answer questions as well as the negative feedback that may arise, likely on their other social media platforms.

However, for the answers that have been provided so far, the majority demonstrates a level of creativity and engagement on McDonald’s part and the company has produced dynamic and highly-visual content. For instance, when asked about why the food in their restaurant appears drastically different from that in their ad, McDonald’s put together a video that illustrates the photography process required for their advertising campaign. While users should read the answers critically because they are designed to McDonald’s benefit, it is a more honest and straightforward approach than any other recent campaign that I can think of.

This program requires a significant amount of resources on McDonald’s part, especially on the part of the social community management team. The level of engagement between the organization and its users is high and requires constant monitoring and maintenance. Questions need to be answered relatively quickly and honestly. If users feel they’re being fed nothing more than a re-hashed version of the existing company line or that the answers are disingenuous, the backlash could be great and due to the viral nature of social media, could spread quickly. So, as you can see, there’s quite a bit of risk involved on McDonald’s part but what are the benefits?

Well, firstly, this campaign provides McDonald’s an opportunity to get their message out there, dispelling rumours and correcting misinformation. Secondly, this initiative can be an effective tool for reputation management and relationship building. While the company won’t be able to convince every one that their food is good, they can strengthen their relationship with existing clients by operating in an open, honest, and transparent manner. By building closer ties with those that frequent the restaurant, even those casual once-every-so-often visitors, this can support McDonald’s in their brand and reputation management, which is important to the overall health of the business.

McDonald’s should be recognized for the boldness of their initiative and if they are able to strengthen their relationship with their online audiences, then the resources spent will be well worth it.

3 thoughts on “Our food. Your questions. McDonald’s and harnassing the power of the social web

  1. estelmas says:

    I actually came across the same site when a co-worker sent me the link. I agree with you that this is a very brave initiative for McDonald’s, especially since it seems like they’ve quite frequently been under the magnifying glass over their food practices.

    I was interested in figuring out exactly how this site works and whether the program is really as transparent as it seems. The website conveniently has a link the their FAQ section which explains how it all works and offers answers to questions such as; “Why is McDonald’s® Canada taking questions about its food?”, “Who’s actually answering all these questions?” and “Why do I have to sign in through Facebook or Twitter to ask my question?” Surprisingly there are not as many restrictions /filters as I thought there would be . The questions require approval, but it makes sense since they are trying to avoid duplicates, or at least that’s what they are telling us. Since the questions come through a Twitter or Facebook account, they all make it to the social web one way or another.

    So if you are required to use facebook and twitter to submit questions, why even bother launching a separate site? Firstly, the platform offers unique features such as the ability to fil t er your results by category and questions are ranked and ordered based on views and popularity. Another benefit is that creating a presence of various social media platforms in conjunction with a website and video posted to You Tube helps to increase SEO.

    I applaud McDonald for their efforts and well thought out campaign . Although they may not win over their harshest critics, with this effort they’re on their way to winning customers over, one question at a time.

    • yvonnekli says:

      Thanks for your comment and insight!

      So far, McDonald’s has tackled a lot of the “soft” questions well but I’m still waiting to see how they handle the harder ones, which will tell us about their level of transparency and intent. If they keep spitting out the same thing- “our food is good food”- without addressing some of the criticism, then I’d be skeptical to believe anything else they’ve said previously. Like we’ve learned time and time again, you have to take the good with the bad, and you can’t just ignore the comments you don’t like.

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