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Social Media Case Study: How McDonald’s Uses Social Media

In 2013, Giraffe Social Media conducted a case study on how McDonald’s uses social media. 8 years later, we’re looking at McDonald’s use of social media in the present day and what they’re getting right.

One thing hasn’t changed since 2013: McDonald’s is still one of the largest and most well-known brands in the world. It’s safe to say that as a company that completely dominate their segment of the fast-food industry, and they certainly won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

McDonald’s on Social Media

Established as a brand known the world over, McDonald’s have a solid social media presence. Global brand status gives them the advantage of using social media to focus on retaining current followers and brand loyalists.

Metrics as of March 2021:

Facebook:         80m likes & 80m followers (UK account)

Twitter:              3.7m followers (global); 234k followers (UK)

Instagram:        3.9m followers (global); 227k followers (UK)

YouTube:          466k subscribers (global/US); 43.8k subscribers (UK)

Pinterest:          19.7k followers

Interestingly, all but Pinterest are currently linked on the McDonald’s website. In 2013, McDonald’s were active on Pinterest as it was new and exciting – now, it doesn’t align with their brand anymore.

Instagram was not mentioned in the originally published case study. In 2013, Instagram was only 3 years old, and brands weren’t savvy to it. Oh, how things change!

All Around the World

McDonald’s utilises having localised social media channels in addition to the US/global account.

This search on Facebook shows just a few different localised Pages for McDonald’s.

How McDonald's Uses Social Media

Partially, this is due to the differences in menus, promotions, and restrictions across the countries. Localised feeds also allow for communication in non-English languages, creating a more personal connection with followers and customers not in English-speaking countries. McDonald’s Nicaragua, for example, publishes all of its posts in Spanish.

They’re Lovin’ It

McDonald’s portray a humorous, relatable persona across their social media channels. This plays into their strategy of using social media as a friendly way to interact with current customers and potential brand advocates.

On Twitter, as soon as you read their play on words with hashtags and Hash Browns in the bio you know you’ll find funny, relatable tweets.

How McDonald's Uses Social Media

Facebook homes McDonald’s largest following by far, with 80 million likes and followers. This platform is more conversational for the brand as it is where most of its customers choose to interact with the brand, but they still keep posts fun and light-hearted.

On Instagram, McDonald’s utilises the app’s mobile focus by adding a link in their bio to food through the McDonald’s app and heavy emoji usage.

But… Not Everyone Is Lovin’ It

McDonald’s takes to social media to try and promote their brand and attempts to use it even with continuous criticism from health professionals, governments, and activist groups. They often face problems including sarcastic or amusing comments added to their social media feed.

Even in 2013, McDonald’s were experiencing unhappy consumers spreading bad news or unfortunate incidents in McDonald’s establishments. Back then, we pointed out that “as with anything in social media, one piece of bad news spreads much faster than one hundred pieces of good news – and that has certainly been the case throughout McDonald’s history on social networks.”

With modern-day activists and even health officials using social media to advocate and rally up support for causes, you can imagine that McDonald’s receive plenty of negative comments.

An interesting note about the above comment on Facebook is that another follower replied to the comment on behalf of McDonald’s, rather than the official McDonald’s account itself. Every post receives such a high volume of comments that it would be impossible for McDonald’s to reply to each one directly. This is where having brand advocates and actively engaged followers can help. While the above reply is somewhat negative, it does point out that McDonald’s isn’t aiming to target vegans and vegetarians in its marketing efforts.

Customer Service

One of the main ways McDonald’s uses social media is to answer disheartened customers’ queries and try to rectify the problem. Almost every single post from McDonald’s on each social media channel is met with replies/comments from unhappy customers who received the wrong order, or opposers to the brand (for example, vegetarians/vegans and health advocates).

Customer service on socials is key for brands like McDonald’s, especially for maintaining a good, helpful image for the brand. Their Twitter feed is where questions and problems from customers are most frequently asked. Unlike Facebook or Instagram, these messages are not hidden away in the comments but rather front-and-centre on the feed.

How McDonald's Uses Social Media

What They’re Getting Right

McDonald’s get several things right on social media:

  • Posting frequently/scheduling posts
  • Posting relevant content to their target audience
  • Engaging with customers and followers, in both a fun way and for customer service
  • Using current and seasonal events in their social promotion strategies
  • Using a personable, fun, and helpful brand tone of voice
  • Utilising the unique features of each platform and tailoring their content between channels.

This was true back in 2013 and still holds true today. An example from 2013 is that their Twitter and Facebook feeds were being constantly updated, and they utilised seasonality in particular. For example, at a time when students up and down the country would have been moving into their new accommodation, McDonald’s suggested sharing a box of chicken nuggets to make friends.

In 2013, we wondered whether this style of content was a little see-through to Millennial students. On modern-day social platforms, we are better than ever at recognising when we’re being sold to.

McDonald’s sticks to a good rule of thumb: keeping sales pitches at a minimum and opting for how McDonald’s can provide value in their customers lives, interacting with customers/followers, and mixing up their content often enough to seem fresh and exciting still.

How Strong is McDonald’s Social Media Strategy?

Your social media strategy should be constantly evolving, and McDonald’s follows this rule. Back in 2013, we described how Mcdonald’s uses social media as “basic”. In modern-day social media usage, simple and to-the-point posting is what thrives. For brands like McDonald’s, social media is key in answering customer concerns quickly and directly.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2013 and has been edited and updated for republishing in March 2021.

Editor - 

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Comment: 1

  • Tom September 27, 2014 4:46 pm

    So how does McDonalds counteract the negative criticism and sarcastic comments they recieve on every post? I saw them respond to a negative experience comment once but how does a company deal with customers who start huge hate campaigns across social media?

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