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Beefing Up Social Media

Every five seconds someone writes online about McDonald’s. From a public relations practitioner’s point of view, that could seem almost impossible to manage. On Feb. 20, 2009, I attended the Real World PR Conference sponsored by the Georgia PRSA. I was able to hear Heather Oldani, director of U.S. communications for McDonald’s, discuss the company’s efforts to create an online social media presence.

Its debut was a YouTube promotion for the honey mustard snack wrap in February 2007. It has since branched out with Web sites encouraging user participation.

When launching the Southern Style Chicken Biscuit nationwide, McDonald’s made a Web site. Site visitors can create a dance-off between a chicken and an egg to battle it out and decide what came first. Personally, I found it quite entertaining to make a chicken do hip-hop on the beach (I beat the egg). It also incorporated Dance Like a Chicken Day, May 14, into the campaign. The Web site had 150,000 unique visitors and 45,000 dance-offs. It was the topic of 1,500 blogs and prompted 11,000 online discussions.

The Big Mac recently celebrated its 40th birthday. As part of the celebration, McDonald’s created a MySpace page and invited users to remix the Big Mac Chant (two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun). More than 1,000 entries were submitted, and the winner’s remix was featured in a national advertisement. McDonald’s also held a 40th birthday party at Project Beach House in Malibu. There was a cake made to look like a Big Mac, and celebrities like Kim and Khloe Kardashian and Serena Williams attended. The party produced 500 online and blog placements and 244 million media impressions.

The public has questioned the quality of McDonald’s food for a while. To combat this, it targeted the 46 million moms who are online. In 2007, McDonald’s created the Mom’s Quality Correspondents Program. It had 4,500 moms apply to the program and chose six to invite into the McDonald’s kitchens and suppliers’ facilities, and to meet with its nutritionists. The moms write uncensored, online journals about their trips and even answer questions from other visitors to the site. The Web site has had more than 83,000 unique visitors with an average of six and half minutes spent looking around the site. More than 15,000 people have signed up for the Quality Community.

McDonald’s has been successful in gaining participation from its customers. It has used fun contests and events to create buzz and gain publicity. The Mom’s Quality Correspondents Program started a dialogue about the concerns of many moms when feeding their families. The Vitrue 100 ranked McDonald’s 32 out of the top 100 social brands of 2008. McDonald’s must be lovin’ it.

-Melinda Williams

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