Among the uncensored Twitterati responses McDonald's received for the $80,000 it reportedly spent for its #McRibIsBack full-day sponsored trending topic (leaving out the ones that used language not reprintable here):
- The Mcrib' looks vicious and gross
- The McRib is back, now with 23% less rat meat, per serving
- When I grow up I want to have a farm and raise whatever "animal" the McRib is made of.
It's easy to see how McDonald's was drawn into this. The McRib has a small but loyal cult following that has avidly pursued McRib-eating opportunities through a locator Web site during recent years, when the McRib has been available only sporadically and only in a few markets at a time. McDonald's no doubt hoped to harness the fan base to pump up interest in the McRib.
But here's the thing about Twitter: It's the Wild West in there. There's no way to shape or control the dialogue. The comments were so rude that responding to them would have likely only made things worse. So McDonald's could only sit there and take it. Couldn't have been fun in the C-suite.
Even if McDonald's had gotten McRib fans to post positive comments, the trending topic was visible to all. Snarkers quickly jumped on the opportunity to increase their Twitter followers by thinking up something rude to say about the pressed-pork sandwich that would get frequently retweeted. The ruder, the better.
The McRib debacle calls two things into question: Whether Twitter will be able to make money from sponsored trending topics (as it hopes), and whether brands should pay good money to use this advertising approach. For now, smart brands will probably watch and learn rather than jumping in to the Twitter paid-topic pool. The water can turn out to be ice cold.
Photo via Flickr user DrPizza