Be As Fearless As… McDonalds?

If your colleagues have ever looked at you with fear in their eyes when you proposed answering questions posed on social networks in a transparent or honest manner, then I have a site for you. McDonald’s recently published a microsite where they allow anyone to pose questions for McDonald’s representatives to respond to. The good folks at Sysomos (who run a great blog, by the way) put me on to it.

And I’m glad they did, because the “Our Food Your Questions” site is a real example of using social media in a truly engaging way. McDonald’s asks visitors to pose whatever question they want and in turn, McDonald’s pledges to answer it. Some of the questions are probably of the variety McDonald’s would prefer not to talk about, but it is all fair game here. They even offer the opportunity for visitors to follow unanswered questions so they are notified when McDonald’s posts an answer.

McDonald’s has no fear when it comes to offering answers to tough questions. So I ask you: what’s your excuse?

Now, McDonald’s is a battle-worn veteran when it comes to taking shots from detractors, so they understand all too well how to deal with less-than-favourable jabs from those who aren’t exactly fans of their products. But there are loads of companies, organizations and individuals who are in the same situation, but continue to shy away from facing the public in such a direct manner.

There is plenty of evidence that how you respond to negative feedback online is much more important than whether individuals say negative things about you or your brand. In fact, it can actually help your cause if you respond in a timely and clear manner. The person asking the question may not like the answer, but you’ll earn respect for giving an answer.
With this site, McDonald’s illustrates that they understand how social media can deepen their engagement with existing or potential customers.

The one caveat I will offer is this: McDonald’s may have its (many) detractors, but many, many customers do enjoy their food (I know I do). It is important that you spend as much or more time building a supportive community – through engagement, responsiveness and consistently providing value – as you do answering pointed questions. That community will be there to support you, but only if you feed, water and grow it. Don’t face detractors alone.

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