CHICAGO: After rather belated recognition of the power of social media to engage millennials and generate sales, McDonald's has now fully embraced the technology.

Even though the quick service restaurant chain gets mentioned on social media at least every couple of seconds, the company had no consistent means of monitoring what was being said about it until as recently as two years ago.

That is all changing now after McDonald's established three digital media hubs based at its headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, as well as London and Singapore, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It also recently recruited 200 specialists from tech companies, such as Amazon and PayPal, to work on improving its digital communications, and the company believes its efforts are paying off, especially with its all-important millennial customers.

To keep them onside and to maintain future sales, McDonald's is trying to use social media to improve its communications to this demographic with messages tailored to their concerns.

For example, by tracking Twitter, the company found that millennials were using the social platform to complain that breakfast at McDonald's was not available after 10.30am.

By swiftly moving to offer an all-day breakfast menu, McDonald's scored a big hit with millennials, the Journal reported, because 78% of them said they visited one of its restaurants at least once a month or more in the first quarter of this year.

Deborah Wahl, CMO at McDonald's, has acknowledged that millennials are difficult to influence because of their instinctive distrust of anything that seems staged.

For that reason, the company has chosen to depict more realistic photos of its product range in its promotions rather than the traditional approach of using photos of perfect-looking food.

"The real produce on the sandwiches is a big improvement," said Jackie Edmiston, a 31-year-old mother from Kansas City. "We're all about authenticity and we don't like to feel like we're being played in any way," she added.

Wahl spoke recently about McDonald's social marketing activities at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's 2016 MIXX Conference in New York.

She suggested that social media now represents the "spiritual centre" of its marketing because these services are "openly conversational, personally relevant, and contextually appropriate".

She said social media offers a "a two-way street allowing dialogue, kinship and collaboration".

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff