In the latest instalment of our blog series looking at how brands make use of the four major social networks, I’ve decided to take a closer look at McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is one of the most recognisable brands in the world, yet also has to battle a fair amount of negative publicity – so one would assume that its social accounts would be extremely active.

This blog follows on from similar posts looking at the social strategies of ASOS, Walmart, Starbucks and Red Bull, among others.

Without further ado, here is a quick look at how McDonald’s uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

Facebook

For a company that has had its fair share of bad press over the years, McDonald’s remains one of the biggest brands in the world and this is reflected in its social media communities.

The McDonald’s US page has more than 27m fans, and its local market pages have all attracted several hundred thousand ‘likes’.

But despite its obvious success in attracting fans, McDonald’s actually does relatively little in regards to posting content on its wall.

Accepted wisdom suggests that you need to post frequent updates in order to maintain people’s attention on Facebook, and retailers such as ASOS and Walmart are great exponents of this theory.

However, both McDonald’s and Starbucks have taken a far more hands-off approach, yet are two of the most ‘liked’ brands on the social network.

McDonald’s generally posts fewer than five updates a month yet each one attracts several thousands ‘likes’ and comments, which is more than the brands that posts several times per day.

Several commenters on my Starbucks blog post suggested the engagement levels that these massive global brands enjoy on social media is just a natural by-product of their corporate success, and that theory certainly appears to hold water.

McDonald’s makes no apparent effort to respond to the thousands of user comments it receives, and most of its posts are merely product promotions.

Interestingly, the local market pages are far more active and post several updates per week.

The UK page has almost 500,000 fans and posts a steady stream of eye-catching content, though nearly all of it is product focused.

While many businesses use social to give a more rounded image of the brand by posting lifestyle content, McDonald’s just promotes its product range and upcoming changes to the menu.

Even so, it maintains an impressive level of engagement, with each post attracting several thousand ‘likes’ and comments.

Furthermore, McDonald’s UK hasn’t made any effort to reward its Facebook fans in any way. Many brands run Facebook competitions, with Ikea’s warehouse sleepover being a notable example.

But McDonald’s clearly doesn’t see any value in that, and sticks to its sales messages instead.

Twitter

Unlike its Facebook page, McDonald’s USA invests a lot of time and effort in maintaining an active Twitter feed.

It posts several updates each day to entertain its 995,000 followers, however it tends to avoid tweeting anything too quirky or off-message and instead remains resolutely focused on promoting it products.

This could be because this Twitter feed was the subject of a fairly major social fail in 2012. McDonald’s used the hashtag #McDStories to promote video content of their suppliers talking about McDonald’s ingredients.

Unfortunately for Ronald the campaign was hijacked by consumers complaining about the company’s service and the quality of the food.

That said, the social team do respond to a handful of users each day but only ever ones that have posted positive comments.

The fast food chain also has an official corporate account, which has far fewer followers but responds to a far greater number of @mentions.

This Twitter feeds injects more personality into its tweets, and like the US account it links to short biographies of each member of the social team.

Through this account the brand engages in conversations with other users and brands alike, and also occasionally responds to complaints.

On top of this, McDonald’s also has a dedicated customer service feed that responds to customer complaints.

However it currently only responds to about 20 customers per day, and based on the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the US I would have thought that this means a large amount of complaints are going unanswered on Twitter.

As with its Facebook strategy, McDonald’s also has Twitter local Twitter feeds for various global markets and US states.

But despite the fact that even El Salvador has its own feed, the UK apparently doesn’t see any value in using Twitter.

Pinterest

While McDonald’s maintains separate acounts for its local markets on Facebook and Twitter, on Pinterest it only has one main corporate account.

A majority of the content is pinned from the company’s Flickr account, while the rest mainly comes from other McDonald’s websites.

This is a common tactic among brands, presumably because they want to make sure they aren’t driving traffic to other sites and avoid any copyright claims.

The one board that bucks this trend is ‘#FoodThanks’ which was created to “collectively show appreciation for wholesome food and those who provide it.”

McDonald’s has invited other users to pin their own food-related images to the board, which is a good way of building a community on the network as it means people feel involved with the brand.

Overall though, McDonald’s isn’t particularly active on Pinterest compared to other major brands such as Red Bull and Walmart.

It joined the network more than a year ago and since then has only pinned 393 images on its 15 boards. The account only has around 2,000 followers, which is low for a such a huge, global brand.

One other interesting point to note is that McDonald’s is unable to run any Pinterest competitions due to the differing regulations in the 119 countries in which it operates.

This deprives its social team of a useful tool, as many other brands have managed to increase engagement and boost their follower numbers by running competitions on Pinterest.

Google+

While putting together these social media posts one common theme that has emerged is that very few brands bother to put a lot of effort into their Google+ pages.

ASOS and John Lewis are notable exceptions as they post updates on a daily basis, but Ikea and Walmart are more typical examples in that they have established G+ pages, posted a few updates, then lost interest and left the accounts dormant.

McDonald’s actually goes one step further, and has established a G+ account then done absolutely nothing with it. There isn’t a single post in its feed.

There are also accounts for other local markets, including Brazil and Japan, but neither has been updated since last summer.

The one exception is McDonald’s Germany, which last posted on March 6, however the updates only come at the rate of about two a month.