Fans and foes, lovers and haters: Social media in a post-consumer age

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What You’ll Learn:: 

Cute kid, that Evan. Just like all 3-year-olds. Except, perhaps, when he finds a Littlest Pet Shop toy in his McDonald’s Happy Meal instead of the Wolverine he’d ordered.

A girl toy! And his mom didn’t have time to return to the drive-in window and swap the thing for the action figure.

She did find time to tweet, “Oh @McDonalds, do you know what it does to a little boy to find the Littlest Pet Shop in his Happy Meal instead of a superhero??”

The message could have been lost in the worldwide mudslide of Twitter wisdom. And the Golden Arches might have been down a couple customers, says Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald's. But as it happened, McDonald’s was monitoring. It mailed Evan the toy, along with a card that read, “You tweeted. We listened.”

In “Fans and foes, lovers and haters: Social media in a post-consumer age,” Wion offers a supersized serving of social media savvy.


  • Why you should listen to critics, move for customers.
  • What Sean “P. Diddy” Combs had to say about strawberry lemonade.
  • Why legal is your friend—or better be.
  • How McDonald’s stopped a crisis by piggybacking on cultural trailblazer Charlie Sheen’s inspiring antics.
  • Who won when Mike Bloomberg crossed swords with McDonald’s on Twitter.
  • Where to find fans and empower them to buoy your brand
  • How fans protect you in times of controversy
  • How to tune your monitoring strategies to balance brand and business passion

McDonald's has 29 million fans on Facebook, and another million on Twitter. There are 3 million tweets about McDonald's every month. Others might despair at the immensity of the task of tuning in. Not a good idea, Wion says.

Learn how to listen. Find out what tools McDonald's uses for monitoring—and why no one tool is a panacea. Listening also means (sigh) “slogging through the mud” on Twitter. “I have a whole team, but I do every week,” Wion says.

Find out how McDonald's responded when New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg wanted to ban sodas over 16 ounces, using Twitter to urge McDonald’s to fall in line. Hear about the planning that went in on McDonald's response—which was heavily retweeted.

Wion summed up their sentiments: “Yeah, McDonald's, you know what, if I want a 32-ounce soda, I’m going to get a 32-ounce soda. In fact, I’m going to go get one right now.”

Learn how to nourish fans and placate critics. On the one hand, you just sit back and enjoy the free publicity if musical impresario Sean “P. Diddy” Combs says your strawberry lemonade, with a touch of Ciroc, “is going to be the drink of the summer 2012.”

But what to do when things go awry? Hear how Twitter erupted one day over a McDonald's entrée served in New England and Canada and called McLobster. #McLobster began trended, and not in a good way.

“People are saying the most disgusting things you could ever imagine,” Wion says.

Find out how a reference to Sheen’s antics helped the burger-flipping business come out on top—thanks to this tweet:

"Despite all the rumors there r no plans 2 bring #mclobster or mcsushi 2 the US menu. We r working on a new menu item called McWinning."

Avoid burnout on your team: Hear how McDonald's distributes social media responsibility.

Sure, you’d like to stuff a burger down the throat of the relentless troll who hates you but can’t stop yakking about you on social media. But customers are the ones who matter.

Steal ideas on scenario planning and how to create canned materials to decrease your response time during campaigns. You probably know the big risks that you have, Wion says. Take a day and plan a war room: “If this were to happen, what would we do?”

Start here.

April 2013

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Presenter bio: 

Rick Wion is director of social media for McDonald's Corp. He is a past vice president of interactive media GolinHarris, which delivers communication vehicles in support of award-winning multimedia services for Fortune 500 clients. And he has served as director of technology services at SmithBucklin.