Social Media Disasters: McDonald’s Hashtag hashbrown

I attended several minor league hockey games one season, and noticed one recurring advertiser mention.  The product was an energy drink, and the P.A. announcer would extol its virtues, mentioning the name of the drink several times.  The P.A. announcer prompted the audience with “What’s the official drink of the Dayton Bombers? The audience, in unison, said “Beer!”. After the first time I’m not sure why the copy wasn’t changed, but it remained that way all season.

Something similar happened to McDonald’s online. McDonald’s started a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #McDStories. The idea was for supporters to share positive McDonald’s stories. It’s no secret that even with the billions and billions of burgers that McDonald’s has served, McDonald’s has maybe more than its share of detractors, who blame it for things like childhood obesity (I’m not sure how kids are driving themselves to McDonalds everyday and what money they are using, but leave that for another day).  Needless to say the hashtag was used by critics.  Sample screenshots are included with Huffington Post article.

What to take away from this? Never take anything for granted when planning your next Social Media campaign.  Don’t assume your audience  will blindly react the way you want them to.

Thoughts anyone?


Burning the Midnight Social Media Oil

A question came up among my Twitter friends about the wisdom, or lack of same, of hiring a Social Media manager and having that person work a regular 9 to 5 schedule. Can social engagement be confined to regular business hours?  Does it depend on the type of business? Would it be different for Business to Business  as opposed to consumer brands?

People are on their devices and all times of the day and night.  They expect action and engagement when they interact, and Monday morning just won’t do. Pizza arrived cold? I’m telling everyone I know before Monday, and everyone who follows your pizza company’s page. Should that complaint stay on your page until Monday morning at 8am? Can you think of a good reason why it should? I can’t.

There are product categories and demographics which find people online at 2am.  Shouldn’t your brand be available then?

Almost all consumer brands should monitor their brand into the late night. Yes, people do everything from shop for cars to go out for fast food in the evening, overnight and weekends. It may not be practical to have one person cover all of that time. If you are a business owner also handling social media, you have to actually run your business.  This may be a situation where you might want to consider an intern or two. I have monitored my brand even at a baseball game and concert. It doesn’t take being online 24/7 but checking in every few hours can make a huge difference.

Travel and hospitality brands will need to be able to respond 24/7/ If a guest has an unsatisfactory experience and cannot get the issue resolved at the front desk, they may take their frustrations out for all the world to see. This could result in a bad Yelp or Travelocity review.

How have you kept up with social media during off hours?

Cold Calling Wars: Part 1

Every sales manager preaches it. (Almost) every salesperson hates it. Most business owners even refuse to take them.  Yes, I’m talking about cold calling.

Anyone who has spent any time at all in sales has been required to cold call. There are salespeople who are very good at it. Then, there’s the rest of us.

My first experience with cold calling came when I was working for GTE (formerly General Telephone Co, since merged into Verizon). 8 hours a day for just above minimum wage and no commission, I and a roomful of others buried deeply in a windowless office  “dialed with a smile” to sell services that were new at the time.  Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, 3 Way Calling and Speed Dialing were  being packaged as The Smarter Call Pak. Just U.S. $3.95 after your one month free trial. Now, those services and that extra #4 did not just fall off of the bill after 30 days. We gave the customers a date that they had to call back by in order to cancel the service, or they would start being billed for the extra services. Of course, GTE would rather they forgot, even if they never used the services. People would call the service number wondering why they were getting a beep in their ear sometimes.  We sometimes would use a script which was almost comical “What if you missed a very important call?”

Has any business ever told you that “everyone is a prospect?” We were told that. After all, everyone who had a phone could have these services added to their lines.  The reality was that we were often asked to call residents of nursing homes (we called those lists “Group 4”).  Unfortunately (and sadly) these residents often received very few phone calls and would have little use for these services.

GTE  did some advertising in print and on radio/TV, and a few of us were selected to take incoming calls. If you think I didn’t jump at that chance, you would be wrong. There was a big difference between the people who called in in response to the advertising and the folks we cold called. The telephone customers who called us found a need for the services we were offering. The people we cold called, day in and day out, largely didn’t really have a need, and just didn’t appreciated being called. Some were behind on their phone bill and thought at first we were collection agents.

The takeaway, even then, was that cold calling was an inferior way to reach customers.  GTE thought it was worth hiring 100 people to dial the phone on 2 shifts, but would better targeted advertising encouraging inbound response have been better? Maybe even cost less? I don’t know GTE’s budget numbers at the time, but a lot of people churned in and out of that basement, three Temporary Help agencies were contracted, GTE customers were inconvenienced and there was probably a better way to introduce customers to the the new services than doing cold calls from a boiler room. Boiler room operations are the reason that the Do Not Call list was born, with penalties for companies who call individuals at home without their permission.

You might say a telemarketing room has nothing to do with business to business sales or business to consumer sales.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out why this operation has everything to do with professional sales…or lack of same.

Fired on Facebook? A new low or something expected?

Would you fire someone on Facebook? Would you be upset if you were fired ON Facebook? That’s what happened to Angel Clark, a weekend talk personality at WGMD Radio in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  She  wrote about it and displayed the messages on her blog.

The headline of the blog post may mislead just a little, the firing did not take place on her public timeline, but in a personal message.  Does that make it more palatable? After all, many people use Facebook as their e-mail for all intents and purposes. Still, with concerns over privacy, maybe there’s something just not quite right about using a social network to send an employee packing.

Angel was a part time employee,  but that shouldn’t make a difference. As far as I’m concerned, everyone should have the courtesy of an in-person meeting, with proper protocol followed. I worked at one large company that actually called local police every time they were going to fire someone.  This may be overkill, but with workplace shootings and violence, I can understand the company taking precautions.

Is firing by Facebook message something that will be more common? I’ll open it up to you.

You Give the Internet A Bad Name—Bon Jovi death hoax

The word spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and the Blogosphere. Jon Bon Jovi,  iconic 80s rocker had passed away of a heart attack in New Jersey at the age of 49.  Jon Bon Jovi was even trending on Twitter. Where did this information come from? Just a random WordPress blog that no one had ever heard of.  It was enough to make even KIIS-FM in Los Angeles report it as fact.

December 19 was the day that the world learned of the death of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il.  3 short names? I guess that’s easy to confuse.  In reality, the rumors of Jon Bon Jovi’s death were greatly exaggerated, and passed on by people who didn’t look for a reliable source to confirm whether or not there was any truth to the rumor. Later, Jon Bon Jovi appeared and had some fun with the rumor, as he posed with his “message from heaven“, which he said looked a lot like New Jersey.

In our high speed, ultra-connected electronic world, it’s easy for false rumors and stories to travel the world in an instant. From fake Amber Alerts to breathless stories of Facebook charging for it’s services, even those who are careful can spread rumors to all of their online friends. How do find out what is true and what’s not before you hit the send button?

There are reliable sources that can help one confirm or deny rumors of celebrity deaths or the latest viral messages going around Facebook.

For all things celebrity, gets its news fast but generally accurate. TMZ  was one of the first, if not the first, to confirm Michael Jackson‘s death.  If it’s on Google or Yahoo! News,  it’s most often an Associated Press story that’s quoted.     I have my issues with the major news sites, but when it comes to a celebrity death, it’s usually vetted.  I have had a couple of times when celebrities from my youth have passed (such as Grass Roots lead singer Rob Grill) where the information took a couple of days to find it’s way online.

Whenever anything appears in my Twitter or Facebook Timeline that doesn’t seem to make sense, I will check out You can put a few lines of the message in and find out if the item is true.  When Facebook made it’s changes in September, in addition to the expected complaints and demands to “change it back”, rumors spread the Facebook would begin charging, but if you posted this viral message on your wall, your wall would turn blue and you’d have one of the free accounts….of course it had to be true because “it was on the news!” (no one ever says what news source).  Placing the phrase  “Facebook charging it was on the news” into Snopes search engine brought this result: Some of the “protest pages” on Facebook actually contained malware.

There are times I wish that before someone posts rumors that a popup window would come up saying “Have you checked Snopes?”. It would make the world a little easier.

What rumors, death or otherwise, have you fallen for (or were smart enough not to?)

Cleaning up a PR mess: Pigeon Forge, TN hotel sues

When the most popular travel review website in the world calls your hotel the “dirtiest in America“, you have a big problem to say the least.  The Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, TN received the dubious dishonor of being number one in their list of the Dirtiest Hotels in America. The distinction, to say the least, severely harmed business at the hotel, and the owner of the hotel is still reeling from the public shaming.  The effects on business were so great, the hotel’s owner is suing TripAdvisor for $10 million.

No matter what happened, or didn’t happen at Grand Resort Hotel,  where do they go from here to repair their reputation, even if the “award” was unjustified and the bad reviews were due to malice?

I asked Michelle Quillen, Social Media/Marketing Manager of New England Multimedia and Public Relations pro Jayme Soulati of Soulati Media what steps the Grand Resort could use to clean up their reputation (deserved or not, a dirty hotel is what their potential customers now know them as).  Michelle in turn asked her Facebook readers for their take and advice.

Michelle had several suggestions for the Grand Resort Hotel

1) Come up with Room Cleaning Standards Checklist, give it a name reflecting stellar service.

2) Create similar checklists w/same stellar-reflection service name for other hotel services.

3) Train all workers in new standards, get them on video talking about standards, taking pride in hotel.

4) Make video of CEO talking about new standards, & offering free night to any customer whose stay does not meet gold standard in any of those areas. Offer incentives to workers to deliver standard.

5) Finally, plaster that new Stellar Service Standards all over the website, social media, TV.

After making the suggestions, Michelle adds: ” But I agree with the owner, to a point. I don’t trust review sites. Competitors troll them.”

Jayme Soulati said ” Ta heck w/ standards! CLEAN!. Then open up the hotel for the grandest promo ever” Free Night Weekend” and invite guests to stay over free as long as they consider (you can’t force) Yelp, Foursquare, Trip Advisor recommendations.  Also,  launch a photo story board — perhaps Facebook timeline? Launches all the photos peeps take while staying there. I’d also get a top notch quality control inspector to give it the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and ensure no bed bugs among other things.  Rebecca Griffin adds that a change of name for the hotel could be appropriate. Ugh BAD PR is bad PR no matter how you slice it. My advice is to have them clean the hotel and well, and possibly invite Trip Advisor people to come inspect it. Lawyers are just going to cost them more money in the end.

Gia Volterra De Saulnier of PhinnVolt Enterprises adds that “BAD PR is bad PR no matter how you slice it. My advice is to have them clean the hotel and well, and possibly invite Trip Advisor people to come inspect it. Lawyers are just going to cost them more money in the end”.

From Tristan Pinnock: “Hire some former Marine Corps Drill Instructors to inspect rooms after cleaning. In fact, you could run a marketing campaign on that fact alone”.  (This would be HUGE!)

I’d like to thank everyone who commented in this impromptu discussion; these are all very good ideas.

My take on the Grand Resort lawsuit: It may well be justified, Grand Resort could be 100% in the right, and TripAdvisor and their reviewers could be 100% wrong, but the reputation damage has been done and it will take much time, effort and money to overcome the damage that this black eye has caused. The Grand Resort has it’s work cut out for them.

(If anyone from the hotel is reading, thank you, and if you would like help putting these ideas into effect, contact me at BradLovettMarketing  AT


New Facebook layout: First impressions




Facebook rolled out a new layout, which many U.S. users woke up to this morning.  Anytime Facebook makes changes, there are howls of protest, and this time was definitely no exception.  Indeed, the changes are some of the most drastic ever. I just somehow knew my vast reading audience (ahem)  was waiting to hear what I had to say about it,  (cough) so here are my first impressions. The short version: Google Plus and Twitter meet Facebook.

Positive: Subscriptions. Facebook users often were dissatisfied that updates on every Farmville, Mafia Wars or Disco Ducks appeared in their newsfeed. They also were sometimes not happy that Facebook’s algorithms were such that friends who posted infrequent updates or whose interactions were infrequent were shuffled to the bottom of the stack. Now with Subscriptions, a user can control how often they see updates and on what subjects. It’s also possible to subscribe to another user’s public updates (specifically tagged as public) even if you aren’t friends.  This changed rolled out for me over the weekend, and made a huge difference in my feed. I got to decide who were my top contacts.

The newsfeed photos are the same size as those in Google Plus, which is OK with me.


The split top-and-bottom screen with your top and most recent stories I can get used to, but I liked it better when I could switch between the two versions.

Negative: The ticker on the right hand side. First, it moves so fast it is distracing and eye-fatiguing. Fortunatelely, there are work-arounds that will remove that Twitter in hyper-drive from your feed. One of those is an extension in Google Chrome.

Many posted outraged comments about these aggressive changes, as well as pictures and “trains”. These will be as successful as they were the last 10 times Facebook made changes, and I rpedict when the next cjhanges roll around, there will be people forming groups and demanding a change back to what it look like today. Even if there is “a million strong” to change the layout back to the last update, there are 750 million users.


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