Battle of the Social Brands: McDonald’s vs. Burger King

In this week’s installment of Battle of the Social Brands, we have the leading fast food chains McDonald’s and Burger King square off. Last week, we examined how Coke and Pepsi fared, and we found that Pepsi had the better social presence.

Just a reminder: We examined the presence of each brand’s main Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Our analysis goes beyond raw numbers — anyone can buy a bunch of Facebook fans — to look at how well the brands employ those qualities inherent in the social universe: engagement and authenticity. We take a broad view of how these two companies are represented in the social sphere, looking at everything from how the brands set up their Facebook pages to the frequency and types of tweets the people manning the accounts deliver.

The numbers:

McDonald’s has a whopping 343,322 followers on Twitter and is communicating with them regularly, with 6,919 tweets to-date. It has 17,140,598 likes on Facebook, with 641,051 consumers talking about McDonald’s on Facebook and 2,142,881 Facebook members visiting the branded page. With 1,955 YouTube subscribers and 40 videos, McDonald’s has raked in 6,338,192 video views.

Behind the Numbers:
McDonald’s has been focusing a lot lately on the quality of its food, with campaign messages regarding the fast food chain using the best potatoes for its french fries, for example. The brand’s Facebook strategy aligns well with its overall marketing. When users like the McDonald’s Facebook page, they are brought to a destination within the page where McDonald’s communicates its commitment to quality. For example, users can watch a video that features a potato farmer who talks about his dedication and struggles to grow the best quality potatoes and supply them to McDonald’s. Additionally, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up, the fast food giant is doing a lot of advertising and promotions around its new Shamrock Shake. The Facebook page for McDonald’s features the shake as the default image, acting almost like an advertisement for the product. The company posts images of its newest products on its Wall, using it as a platform to keep loyalists in-the-know. There’s a lot of engagement going on here as well, with every post for the last month getting at least 200 comments and some exceeding 2,000, indicating that McDonald’s is succeeding at starting a two-way dialog with consumers on Facebook. McDonald’s gets an A+ for its use of Facebook for cultivating loyalists.

When it comes to Twitter, McDonald’s is actively talking to followers and actually asks them to talk back. “We’re here to listen and learn from all of our fans and followers,” McDonald’s says on its Twitter page. Again, the Shamrock Shake is prominently advertised and the whole page is designed with a green background, further aligning with the brand’s overall marketing for St. Patrick’s Day. McDonald’s not only posts on its Twitter feed, but actually replies to its followers as well, again opening the door for two-way conversation. The company tweets regularly and the most recent posts focus on promoting the new Shamrock Shake.

Of course, there was that one little (and by little, I mean HUGE) Twitter mess up last month. As part of the company’s promoted tweet campaign, McDonald’s wanted people to share their favorite Mickey D stories by using the hashtag #McDStories. Things quickly went a-fry. Twitter users hijacked the hashtag and regaled the Twitterverse with gems like: “I only eat McDonald’s when I am ill because it makes me feel sick anyway. #McDStories.” This has become one of the defining case studies of social media. The brand put out a statement explaining that they are still learning from its experiences.

The McDonald’s YouTube channel has no mention of the Shamrock Shake and instead focuses on the quality of the fast food giant’s products. An image of a potato farm is in the background. The YouTube channel does not fully align well with what McDonald’s is doing on Facebook and Twitter. Although the video content uploaded by McDonald’s is mostly branded commercials and all of the videos have comments, none of the videos have anything to do with the Shamrock Shake. However, the videos do justice to McDonald’s mission of branding its food as good quality.

Burger King:
The numbers:

For a major brand with a young customer demographic, the company has a surprisingly low social following, with only 45,969 followers on Twitter and 4,315,291 likes on Facebook. The company does have 31,790 YouTube subscribers. Burger King still seems to be getting its feet wet in the social waters, as it has only put out 761 tweets. Additionally, only 236,377 are talking about Burger King on Facebook with 5,116 stopping by. They have a stronger presence on YouTube, as its videos have 15,380,918 views. Interestingly, the link on its YouTube page goes to a Tumblr account the brand set up as a place to track a 28-day King tour.

Behind the Numbers:
Burger King has long played second fiddle to the Golden Arches, and the flame-broiled burger chain’s sojourn into social media reflects its second-class status, too. Fans are also greeted with food glamor shots of a couple of BK’s menu items, but they aren’t as pretty as images we’re used to seeing from its TV spots. When fans go to the King’s Facebook page, they land on its Wall that are only updated once a day during the week. Sure, there are responses from fans and some light interaction from the brand in the posts, but it seems to be just a place for promotion.

However, this may be because the brand is listening to its fans. The only entry for Mar. 1 is a poll asking fans what they would like to see more of on BK’s Facebook page, and there are 1,729 votes for “special offers from Burger King like promotions and discounts.” There are 85 votes for BK news, 79 votes for contests and 36 votes for burger pictures (of which there are a plenty). There doesn’t seem to be any brand awareness (outside those terrible glamor shots), and it looks and feels as if BK just put up a Facebook page because everybody else is doing it. Hopefully, with new Facebook features like the Timeline, BK can employ a more robust and strategic Facebook presence.

On Twitter, Burger King is clearly the new kid on the block, as evidenced by its low tweet count (761 tweets). The company tweets at irregular intervals — sometimes once a day, at most four times a day — and most of the tweets are promotional. BK definitely takes seriously its branding on Twitter, as every Burger King mention in one of its tweets has the registered mark next to it. The tag line, “Letting you HAVE IT” in the header, is the company motto. In the social sphere, however, which works as a two-way street, this phrase might not be the best one. Additionally, the brand’s rays of light make up the background, which serves as a nice complement to the brand image. The company does engage with some of its tweeters, @ replying to some with promotional discounts. But the ideas of engagement and authenticity don’t come across on the Burger King Twitter page.

In an age where timeliness matters, Burger King falls short on YouTube. The last time the company posted a video was a year ago. As noted above, the company links to its Tumblr account instead of its corporate website, as most brands do. Interestingly, the Tumblr account hasn’t been updated since Dec. 7, which was the last day of the King’s tour. And this brings us to the branding on the YouTube page. Since a) the King tour is over and b) BK dethroned the King, why is this still up? My guess is the reason why BK has a poor social presence.

The company has undergone some major cosmetic surgery since being bought by 3G Capital in September 2010 for $3.3 billion. 3G cleaned house, firing ad agency CP+B, PR agency Edelman and media buyer Mindshare, replacing them with McGarryBowen, Coyne PR and Starcom. These major shifts, even a year and a half later, seem to have affected the brand’s use of social media. When you slash your marketing and communications budgets, this is the result.

Without a doubt, McDonald’s understands the value of social media. It effortlessly engages with its audience and does a wonderful job of sticking to its brand image and message. Burger King seems to play ketchup to McDonald’s in all facets of branding, social included. Perhaps with some investment — time, really — Burger King can sit upon the social media throne one day.

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