Few brands have tested the sometimes scurrilous terrain that is Twitter advertising more than McDonald's. The brand has occupied the Promoted Trend spot nine times since November 2010, buying an ad unit that Twitter says costs $120,000 per day.
And whether it's social media users questioning the "meatiness" of the McRib sandwich, turning #McDStories into ugly tales, or having urban dictionary fun with #Shamrocking, the burger chain has earned its social media stripes. Through the events, it's appeared impervious, as consumers have at times run wild with its Twitter conversations.
In the blogosphere, the campaigns have stirred discussion on whether or not all social buzz is created equally. So ClickZ News interviewed McDonald's social media director Rick Wion to get his behind-the-hash-tags take on Twitter.
"As a brand," Wion said, "we know that sometimes critics will take shots, but our primary focus will always be on fans and engaging with customers."
Here are highlights from the recent email interview:
ClickZ: Why is Twitter a targeted advertising environment for McDonald's?
Rick Wion: In addition to our 375,000-plus followers, we see millions of conversations each month about McDonald's on Twitter. A key component of our overall strategy is to engage with customers in the social spaces where they are spending time and talking about our brand.
CZ: What can you tell us about the ROI you've seen from the Promoted Trend purchases?
RW: Twitter has been extremely effective for engaging fans across a wide variety of menu items... Because Twitter is a communications, customer service and marketing tool, we measure it in three different ways using specific metrics for each of those three strategies. Across the board, the cost versus return on engagement is very high.
CZ: After a Promoted Trend ends, what specific analytics do you observe to judge its effectiveness?
RW: We look at several engagement metrics, including the amount of interaction with the main tweet, retweets, clicks in the tweets and increase in followers.
CZ: McDonald's took some heat for the #McDStories hash-tag ad buy. What can you tell us about the sentiment analysis your brand saw from the effort? What else should we know to understand how the initiative really played out?
RW: On the day that it ran, #McDStories accounted for 2 percent of the overall mentions of McDonald's. For comparison, 10 percent of that day's conversation was fans sharing happy, positive tweets about the 'EggMcMuffinOf' campaign. Being in social media means giving up control - but you can't just give up control and hope for the best, you have to have contingency plans in place. When critics tried to hijack that [#McDStories] hash-tag, we quickly switched to #MeetTheFarmers and the negative chatter subsided within minutes.
CZ: You've also tested Promoted Tweets. How does the ROI for that ad buy compare to Promoted Trends?
RW: I can't speak on the specific numbers behind the ROI for each product, but both have been effective in extending engagement with our customers.
CZ: Since you are a consistent Twitter customer, do you get to negotiate better pricing for Promoted Trends?
RW: I couldn't speculate on that because I'm not sure what other customers pay.
CZ: @McDonalds has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. What's been the best way of lifting your number? Promoted Trends? Promoted Tweets? Promoted Accounts? Please explain.
RW: We have used a combination of Promoted Trends, Tweets and Accounts to lift our follower numbers. However, the follower count is only part of the story when evaluating efforts on Twitter. I think that the quality of engagement should be measured just as closely as the raw numbers.
CZ: McDonald's is also a Facebook Marketing Solutions customer. How would you describe the differences between Facebook and Twitter advertising?
RW: Facebook and Twitter offer very different ad products. We also know that our customers and fans engage with us differently in different social channels. As such, we follow different strategies for both paid and earned engagement on each.
This story was originally published on April 2, 2012, and comes in at No. 7 on our countdown of the 10 most popular ClickZ news stories of 2012. As ClickZ looks back over the past year, we're celebrating the best of 2012, as determined by our readers. Enjoy!
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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