McDonald’s Comes Clean With “Our Food, Your Questions”

October 22, 2014

McDonald’s opens up the books on social media.

We’ve all heard the rumors.

Are McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets made with pink slime? Does McDonald’s beef contain worms? Are there real apples in a McDonald’s apple pie?

According to McDonald’s new robust social media initiative, the answers are no, no, and yes!

McDonald’s is entering into uncharted territory “Our Food, Your Questions,” the company’s interactive, online and social commitment to answering customer questions with honest answers — no matter what you ask. The program has been successfully up and running for a while in Canada and Australia, but the U.S. launch is poised to put the fast-food chain center stage.

The result, which rolled out two weeks ago, is a surprisingly vibrant, easy to use library of exactly what it promises — questions and answers. “How do you make the egg on the Egg McMuffin round?” The answer is an “ingenious tool” McDonald’s calls an “egg ring.” “Can I get a decaf McCafé espresso drink?” Currently, that answer is no — but that could change. 

Questions and answers are organized in two ways — by menu item and by topic. And for a fast food chain that has been faced with its fair share of negative accusations over the years, the questions and answers are refreshingly candid and transparent. Whether its the softball examples we just offered above to more hard-hitting questions about the quality of ingredients, are all given equal airtime, rotating across the site’s homepage with easy clickability.

What’s particularly impressive about McDonald’s latest venture is that a number of food industry giants are still trying to figure out what to make out of social media. It’s a means of conveying information, and while McDonald’s can continue to go ahead and plug promotions, introduce new products and use social media as an advertising tool, it can also harness the real power of social media. — to spread a message to the masses.

The message here, according to McDonald’s Vice President of Communications Ben Stringfellow, is that the company has nothing to hide. 

“Candidly, there is risk in anything and everything,” he says of whether there is fear in the company that this roll out could backfire. “But we want to connect people with this information.”

For anyone familiar with social media, McDonald’s is making it easy. If you have a question, tweet them, Facebook them — they’ll answer. If they don’t have the answer at their fingertips, McDonald’s social media team will run it up the chain of command to the appropriate subject matter expert. Years of research has gone into this says Stringfellow, and frankly, it shows — not just in the answers, but in the approachable way Mcdonald’s has made a social conversation exactly what it should be — easy. 

For someone who just wants some additional background information, McDonald’s is producing a series of behind the scenes videos. A look at one of their beef suppliers is up first; a video on the McRib will follow this year with more to come in 2015. 

It’s an approach other companies would be wise to adopt, and to a certain extent, some are. We’ve talked on about Whole Foods Market’s surprisingly effective take on social media, focusing on customer interaction and telling a story over promoting product and sales. But McDonald’s is the first company we’ve seen to take a social media approach customer service and harness it all in one place. For a customer looking for answers, McDonald’s has knocked the ball out of the park. 

Stringfellow admits that while the industry might be painting this initiative as revolutionary and potentially game changing, connecting with customers on social media and providing them with honest information isn’t a phenomenon unique to McDonald’s — it’s just one of the first times a company has made a public, vocal commitment to being an open book with regard to information. And as customers become more sophisticated and the demand for more information grows, he anticipates other companies will board the train.

“We’re really answering questions about any topic that comes in so that our customers can make the most informed decisions possible.”