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Writing his memoir, ‘Goodbye To All That’, Robert Graves reminded himself that ‘people like reading about food and drink’; so I’ve decided to write about burgers and fried chicken, alongside social media (always adds flavour).

I want to investigate the idea that most people see BIG corporate Twitter accounts as some kind of barefaced shill, only followed by the devout.

I looked at KFC and McDonald’s tweets from October 2012, to see how they do it. This is by no means an exhaustive audit, nor is it scientific. I also add that I’m a pescetarian of six weeks, and following these feeds has been somewhat of a coping mechanism.

I must highlight there's a separate McDonald's Corp account, @McDonaldsCorp, that is pretty darn great, and I've given it a good nod at the bottom of the article.

Your tweets are only as good as your tweeter

Twitter is a simple platform for users. It is microblogging, tone of voice with some ‘micro-content curation’ thrown in – choosing photos and links to add to your text, deigning when to retweet and when to @reply. All this you know.

The difficult thing about simple is it’s easy to have a bash and end up mired in banality. Walking a fine line requires balance

Variety

McDonald’s was a little bit ‘monotony and Monopoly’. At one point the @McDonald's account tweets 13 times in a row about its Monopoly promotion. It’s a popular competition, and has an interesting history, but the tweets are inane, and serve to dilute semi-interesting offerings.

There are so many Monopoly tweets one wonders if McDonald’s is acutely aware of the perceived ‘value’ of a tweet, and is consigned to tweeting so many times about the promotion.

They do it, too, about the CBO (‘cheddar, bacon, onion’). It’s a new product, and is doubtless important, but ‘seeding’ is about picking the right time, not opening the sluice gate. Too many tweets make CBO seem a little more like 'chief bore overseeing'.

Here’s an example from October of a rare tweet not about CBO or Monopoly:

Not exactly editorial fairy dust sprinkled over that one either.

I’m being a bit harsh; there were tweets about the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and also about the Happy Meal and efforts to make it healthier. More of this would give a stronger voice.

KFC has a much more ‘undulating’ feed, with more retweets of followers, more ‘jokes’, and less stiff promos. They sporadically link to their Facebook account, to promote charitable work, and the messages seem less lost to the ether.

Once at the KFC Facebook page, the campaign is pretty simple: KFC donates $1 for every share of the campaign post, up to £10k. Users are quite comfortable now with this kind of deal; Facebook’s platform is populated more and more by media and brand likes and shares.

 

Hashtags

KFC gets stuck in with trending hashtags, and I think it’s a good tactic. Lots of their customers will be looking at the same trend, and it gives good opportunity for blowing the chicken trumpet.

It’s tongue in cheek (does that make embouchure difficult?) and the colonel is very good at walking that particular line. Check these out.

Mcdonald’s hasn’t quite got the hang of hashtags (see David’s recent post referring to #McDStories). Check these out, too – firstly, as we know, McDonald’s trys to kickstart its own hashtags, instead of chiming in on popular ones. How many people are loving #McCafe?

In October McDonald’s also tweeted twice from the #blogalicious conference for ‘women social media enthusiasts’, which is all cool, but Mcdonald’s has 700,000 followers, and I’m sure very few know or care about blogalicious.

Newsjacking

Acceptable conduct for brand Twitter accounts, when the news is good. Another area where the line walked is fine though. If the news is good and topical, there’s not much to lose by getting it wrong, but the tweet will just look a bit drivelling.

Here McDonald's links the all-night election coverage to ‘McCafe Premium Roast’ (why can’t they just say ‘we sell coffee’?).

KFC, however, cutely links the Kentucky Vice Presidential debate in early October to their products by declaring they have ‘right wings and left wings’. Reasonably slick.

Pictures

KFC tweets quite cool pics, a mix of user photos, staff, history, and so on. McDonald's does have some decent enough photos of burgers, but not too much else, which is strange, considering McDonald’s Corp actually has quite a snazzy Pinterest page, and McDonald's has a page, too, albeit a bit of a surreal one (and one that sates on sight).

You’d think @McDonalds might tweet more about Pinterest, or feature images from it more often. Staff, community ventures, that sort of thing. But not last month; just this offering, again the copy is prosaic.

Perhaps its reluctant to turn people to Pinterest because of the Pinterest search results, which are fun, but a tad more subversive, and definitely not brand-enhancing.

Burger King is by far the worst at images. I’m just including them here as the stock images they tweet are hilariously uninspired. Here’s a milkshake that’s come out of a time warp. It’s not even branded.

 

Suggestions

Suggestions for new menu items, taken from other cultures, was a good touch from KFC. Fish donuts from Singapore anyone?

Both brands could really benefit though by more actively asking the opinions of their Twitter followings.

McDonald’s does quite well with the cult status of the McRib, but again it’s more teasers/announcements than a canvassing exercise. Still, a useful part of their menu where it makes up some ground on KFC’s cult status.

McDonald's Corp

@McDonaldsCorp is a lovely Twitter feed, and I've been disingenuous by not mentioning it more. It only has 35,000 followers, but if @McDonald's, discussed so far in this post, can hijack McDonald's Corp's tweeters, it would quickly improve its account. It's difficult to move the 700,000 or so followers of @McDonalds over to @McDonaldsCorp, so maybe the account reins should simply be handed over?

There's perhaps the argument that the McDonald's USA followers don't want anything other than Monopoly promos and McRibs, but I think the account could benefit from being a bit more progressive.

The Corp account does everything @McDonalds doesn't, and is arguably better organised than KFC. See below for some great examples.

Linking to Pinterest:

Nice photos:

Menus across the world:

Tweets about business and sustainability:

Twitter: strangely still a debated platform (outside of customer service). Why?

John Prescott used Twitter to enhance his reputation (when it was on the wane), there’s no doubt about that. Twitter has provided great PR for Betfair, Waterstones stores, Shippam’s Paste (though not genuine), Arena Flowers.

I follow these accounts, even though I don’t vote, bet, buy flowers or eat crab paste.

Is this a problem with the platform? Well, potentially, from an analytics point of view, but we’re going to have to reaffirm within digital that there’ll never be a point where everything can be measured. TV ads still work on me, I pass on messaging through word-of-mouth, because I love Phil Collins, even if I don’t eat much choc.

Twitter has been used well for customer service, particularly in fast-moving sectors such as transport. But there are still questions about this powerful platform. Do multinationals risk a much more creative Twitter presence? I would say yes, they have to.

Employ a team who know everything about creative, copy, content, social, your products, social and political and commercial landscapes, and well..everything. To repeat, your Twitter feed is as good as your tweeter(s).

As platforms like this continue to get more popular, McDonald’s USA, for example, could put the same thought and care into managing its Twitter account as it does into making TV ads. I am completely confident the rewards could...possibly...be great.

Ben Davis

Published 12 November, 2012 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)

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Thecla Schreuders, Content strategist at Freelance

Really excellent piece, thanks for your insights.
Thecla

over 3 years ago

Kerry Meehan

Kerry Meehan, Digital Executive at Jarden Consumer Solutions

What about KFC's 'It doesn't count' social media campaign?

over 3 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Hi Kerry

Thanks for pointing it out. I was rather narrow in looking at a handful of Twitter accounts. 'It doesn't count if' has a Twitter page https://twitter.com/DoesntCountIf

and a Facebook page through KFC UK & Ireland. I like the way it's not a fried-chicken specific campaign, and rather than take the health-trip route, they've 'flipped it' to look at our all-too-human lapses/justification. Very nice!

I guess these sorts of campaigns work best across multiple social networks and perhaps TV and the website.

I think it'll be interesting to see how the success of Twitter for brands like this will change depending on whether the platform is used in a reactive or a proactive way. I think there are merits to both approaches but that being proactive can often produce the same effect as a duff tv ad i.e. bemusement.

Many thanks!

over 3 years ago

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Ian P Buckingham

An interesting study providing some insightful perspectives based on a snapshot in time. Goes to show that multinational brands like these two ginats certainly do need a holistic brand management strategy that recognises the importance of this growing channel.
Also goes to show that the channel is only ever as good as the people responsible for running it. People not processes make or break brands and Face Time will always out score Facebook in that regard

over 3 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Hi Ian

Succinctly put and I agree completely.

Thanks for your comment

over 3 years ago

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