The McDonald's Twitter Strategy

Clowning your way to 360k new followers

McDonald’s may very well be the best brand on Twitter. The bird app gave them Best Brand Presence in 2021, and now they’re a finalist at The Shorty Awards in the platform’s category. I dug through their awards submission to read their strategy & couldn’t help but laugh along.

Over 99 billion served

Before we jump into the tweets themselves, we’ve gotta talk about brand recognition’s role in social strategy.

Everyone knows McDonald’s. That’s not hyperbole—Interbrand named them 9th most-valuable brand in the world, and pretty much every casually-curated list of most recognizable brands has them in the top 10. Ask your mom, ask your hostel roommate, ask your dog—they’ve all heard of McNuggets.

When everyone knows who you are, what your product is, and why to buy it, you don’t have to spend time educating current & potential customers on your offering via social content. That’s a colossal advantage over other brands and is a major reason McDonald’s can focus on an engagement-based strategy, aiming to get laughs over everything.

You gotta consider the fast food buyer’s journey, too. We make the decision to hit the drive-thru based on speed, convenience, and price. It’s not @McDonalds’s job to direct link us to McDonalds dot com—they’re tweeting to stay top of mind so when you need something fast, easy, and cheap, the Hamburglar is already running around your head.

Can I take your order?

Like so many brands nowadays, McD’s made their voice more human by taking an internetish tone, or gen z energy, or whatever you wanna call that chaotic energy expressed all lowercase with no punctuation. The differentiator for them? They’re pretty damn funny.

If you’re gonna hop on this tone train, your writers better be hysterical and in touch with the culture. If you’ve told your social team they can use this sort of tone, you’ve got to trust them, too—let them cook. If you give all sorts of notes or question the wording, you’ll be left with a vanilla mess.

Would you like fries with that?

That brand recognition + buyer’s journey means McDonald’s can focus on every social media manager’s favorite strategies:

  • real-time conversations

  • niche content to hit subcultures

  • engagement-focused tweets

What’s wild is how often they’re able to pull off 2 or 3 of those bullets in single social moments. Take this simple, fun engagement play, asking their fans what the sign should say. When an excited gamer replied with a Destiny 2 expansion release date, McDonald’s played ball, publicly reaching out to the publishers to ask permission. The follow-up tweet earned 13,000 likes, nearing the original tweet’s 17k.

Their reply game is stroooong. Like when they asked Elon if Tesla would accept grimacecoin when he taunted McDonald’s into accepting Dogecoin, or when they tweeted a custom controller to Xbox after quick interaction. The brand picks their moments well—the Elon retort earned 60,000 likes.

The ice cream machine is broken

Most brands bury their darkest moments, mistakes, and old products. Why would you ever want to remind your fans of your swings & misses?

McDonald’s has a different idea. They’ve gone with extreme authenticity, turning fan frustrations into punchlines. When Twitter raged over Taylor Swift tickets, McD’s laughed about their discontinued-but-still-often-requested snack wraps—fans ate it up (well, ate up the tweet… not… snack wraps).

Surely you know the meme of the McDonald’s ice cream machine—they’re seemingly always broken, or always being cleaned, or whatever excuse they use to keep me from Oreo McFlurry’s. It’s gotta be one of the most frequent complaints about McDonald’s… so @McDonalds poked fun at it.

This level of self-awareness does wonders for engagement. I can’t in good faith blindly recommend you turn your company’s weaknesses into content, but if you’ve got a strong community who’s in on the joke, there’s certainly fun to be had.

Would you like fries with that?

All of this isn’t to say @McDonalds doesn’t support the company’s initiatives and partnerships—they just run those moments through the same strategic approach.

When drive-thrus had Pokemon Happy Meal toys, McDonald’s showed their subculture knowledge again with a fun CTA: tell me ur fave @Pokemon and i’ll tell u what to order. 8,600 replies to the tweet, an overwhelming number of which got very specific McDonald’s orders that honestly did represent each ‘mon.

Have a nice day

It’s always a big question if these sort of approaches work. Do they find the right audience? Does the engagement come from the right followers? Thanks to their case study, we get some real data:

  • 364,936 new followers (8.3% growth)

  • 147.7 million impressions

  • 1.6 million engagements

  • @McDonalds average Twitter post reach is 53% higher than their closest competitor

Ba da ba ba ba, indeed.