Can I get some social strategy with that Big Mac?

When I think back to childhood memories, McDonald’s always brings
back a smile.  As a young kid I remember the “You deserve a break
today” jingle, the entire meal for a dollar, and yes, the day I was old
enough to get my first Big Mac.  As a child, going to McDonald’s was
something special.

I was excited to chat with Heather Oldani who
is the Director of PR for the US at McDonald’s.  While we did not
discuss Happy Meals, Ronald McDonald, or even the Hamburgler, we
covered a lot of ground regarding their approach to social media.  The
approach is slow and methodical, but it is an approach that I feel will
really pay off for the company over the course of the next few months.

 McDonald’s began working in the social media space about 2 years
ago, viewing it as a great platform to engage with their customers.  As
they ran campaigns around new food and other topics, they would always
step back and debrief.  The goal, simple.  Identify what was not
working and fix it or throw it out.  Identify what was working and keep
doing more of it.  Identify new things to try, new paths to explore. 
The goal for the efforts were clear, increase engagement.  The measures
they used, while manually gathered, focused purely on this outcome.

In late 2008 McDonald’s decided it was time to step back, to focus
on how to do a better job strategically.  While their efforts, and the
regular debrief, led to solid execution, they recognized that social
media needed a strategic role in the organization.   Heather formed a
partnership with her counterpart in marketing and they began leading a
cross-functional team focused on how to “do social right”.  As part of
this initiative McDonald’s all local social media efforts were
temporarily shut down, giving them time to understand how best to
leverage social strategies and the social tools they use.  This was a
brave move in my opinion, one I am not sure I would have taken. 
However, I am impressed with their thinking at this point, time well
spent.  As McDonald’s views the social world, here are the three stages
towards social business enlightenment:

  • Listening.  Tuning in, learning what people want, how the major channels work, etc..
  • Participating.  Engaging with customers, blogger outreach efforts.  2 way engagement.  McDonald’s is in this phase now.
  • Leading.  Becoming a recognized leader in the social business
    space, a company others want to emulate, defining a measurable ROI.

 In October of 2009 McDonald’s officially launched their Twitter and
Facebook pages, entering the Participating stage of their social
strategy plan. They have done a solid job on the Twitter front,
promoting their people and actively engaging.

  • The customer satisfaction team at McDonald’s now has two people
    using Twitter (via CoTweet) full-time and they are expecting to add
    more people as the year progresses.
  • They have been actively listening with Radian6 and are adding Cymfony
    to their listening tool mix.  As they scale listening efforts to the
    Enterprise level  they will be rolling out more robust dashboards and
    metrics, enabling deeper learning at ever stage.
  • While they are not yet feeding data from their social interactions
    back into a CRM system they are manually reporting, evaluating, and
    modifying their efforts as they go.  This is a great first step, CRM
    integration can come later in the year.

What are some of the challenges that McDonald’s, and you, will
have?  How do you define a positive interaction?  Wow, tough question….
The answer will vary from company to company, from marketplace to
marketplace, and yes, even time will change the answer to that
question.  For McDonald’s, at this place and time, the answer focuses
on deepening engagement with users.  If they can turn around a negative
response to a positive then that is a positive engagement. 
Sometimes the simple act of responding, listening to a users and
responding to that user, is all that it takes.
So…. What’s next for McDonald’s?  Think local value.  From their
Facebook page you will be able to enter your zip code and get great
local information, local offers, local coupons.  Local stores, or
regions, will be setting up their own Twitter accounts and Facebook
pages.  Yes, they will all drive a single brand image.  However, they
will do so with a distinctly  flair.

I’ll keep watching what they’re up to and keep you in the loop.  Oh, yes…. I will have fries with that Big Mac.


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