So many large companies are treating social media as if it were a little brother to traditional media. Right now, McDonald's is really standing out to me in that department, especially in contrast to Taco Bell, who is hitting it out of the social media park.
There are a lot of companies on social media trying to apply traditional marketing strategy to relational marketing, and they're not making a lot of headway. McDonald's doesn't have a corporate personality, and while that's a landslide that's been happening for decades now, it's really evident on social media. Taco Bell has half the followers of McDonald's, but regularly gets the same number of re-tweets and favorites. If you look at McDonald's tweet stream it's all very rehearsed, vetted, safe corporate language while Taco Bell is actively participating in conversations and re-tweeting others in that process. Taco bell even has a record of making institutional changes based on social media interactions. That is a huge deal.
I use twitter as the example, because it's the easiest place to have a majority of a company's recent activity laid out in front of you, but Facebook and YouTube are similar.
Taco Bell's YouTube channel currently has a video from the popular YouTube meme “Draw My Life” made especially for that site. McDonald's has a non-broadcast piece about corporate responsibility that looks like somebody just pulled it out of the VCR in the conference room.
Like I said earlier, McDonald's lack of success in relational marketing goes back to their core brand issues, but their online footprint could be greatly improved by developing a personality. They don't, and shouldn't have to adopt Taco Bell's “live mas” college student vibe, but they do have to be relatable.
If I were managing their campaign, knowing their brand promises and brand realities, I'd start by crafting a personality for their social media campaigns that would hold true across all their media, including TV and print. This personality would likely be helpful, encouraging, earnest, optimistic and youthful. They're doing this a little bit in their marketing now, but they're not interacting. Their messages have an encouraging tone, but they land flat. The turn of the corner would be applying that personality in building actual relationships with their customer base. This would go a long way to making McDonald's social media presence a productive one.