How McDonald's takes part in real-time conversations

Sarah Shearman

As a company that is the subject of vast amounts of online criticism – and a great deal of misinformation – engaging in real-time communications is a proposition that McDonald's has considered with great care.

"We see there is a lot of risk," Rick Wion, the quick-service chain's director/social media, told delegates at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival, an annual event held in Austin, Texas.

Not participating online, however, can potentially be even more risky than entering the conversation. "For us, real-time is about one-to-one interactions every day," Wion said. And that involves connecting with "happy customers", shoppers who "come in and are upset" and – where appropriate – some of the brand's vociferous critics. "We need to speak to them, too," he added.

"What's lost in the real-time marketing discussion is the customer-service stuff," Wion continued. "When we got started on Twitter years ago, we were very particular in making sure that we had a customer-service team as part of our original launch team, because we knew we would have things that people would complain about, and we wanted to make sure we were able to take care of those customers."