Creativity is nice, but the true measure of a campaign is results. And when McDonald's boasted ridiculously-good numbers from their Foursquare campaign back in April, marketing and social media professionals perked up their collective ears.
However, McDonald's claims are based on one wildly inaccurate premise. I'll lay out what happened, and I'm sure you'll see where things take a hard left turn.
The promotion: Foursquare users who checked-in at McDonald's on 4/16 were entered for a chance to win McDonald's gift cards.
The results: McDonald's reported a 33% increase in foot traffic because of this promotion.
The problem: McDonald's head of social media stated that they considered Foursquare check-ins the same as in-store foot traffic. Right there is that hard left turn I alluded to three paragraphs ago.
Anyone who has any experience in either marketing or social media is probably shaking their head, and understandably so. Check-ins are about as similar to foot traffic as spam accounts are to actual friends or followers.
The fundamental flaw here is that users don't have to be in McDonald's to check-in, meaning there was probably a large, if not huge, percentage of that so-called spike in foot traffic who were nowhere near a McDonald's (trust me, we have experience with this kind of dilemma here at Axiom). It's entirely possible that someone could have been eating at Burger King while checking-in to McDonald's trying to win a gift card.
So, intentional or not, this a clear case of misreporting on McDonald's part. And while it's not an egregious, prison-worthy offense, McDonald's has set themselves up for criticism and have taken a hit to their social media credibility.
But who knows, maybe McDonald's was trying to unlock some "Social Media Blunder" badge I don't know about.