Want To Build The Perfect Social Team? Here’s Who You Need

How big is your team? A simple question but increasingly a not-so-simple answer. Three years ago the answer was easy. Me.
While not quite a one-man-show (thanks to agency support) I was the only full time person at McDonald’s dedicated to social media.
Today, our social media team not only has an expanded roster, but the responsibility and execution has become diffused across the organization. I’ll write more about our setup in a future post, but given our recent growth, I’ve begun reflecting on the different skill sets that we have and where we could grow. Today instead, allow me to dream a bit about what my dream team would look like.

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Live From the War Room April 19th

In case you missed the news, McDonald’s had a National Hiring Event April 19th when they recruited 50,000 new employees from the front counter to the home office. We are tremendously excited for this event and the overwhelming response that we’ve received from prospective employees and media.

With this post, I wanted to lift the tent slightly and share a little about how we are managing the communications for this event. As you can imagine, the planning and communications out to the Field (McDonald’s speak for the 14,000 restaurants and thousands of employees around the country that make our operations run smoothly) has been going on for months.

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How SXSW Inspired Me

As I am flying home from my first SXSW, my mind is reeling. Spinning really. Having worked in digital development and communications for 15 years, I’ve been to dozens if not a hundred conferences. But never has one affected me so profoundly. To be immersed in a creative, collaborative and hyper-connected environment was amazing.

In many ways, it was like I walked out of Plato’s cave for the first time only to wonder that despite all of my experience and exptertise, have I spent 1.5 decades merely looking at the shadows on the walls. There are too many experiences and ideas rattling around in my head than I could really convey and share at this point. But one feeling that I have to share is a bit of sadness. I feel supremely inspired, but with that comes a bit of depression.

I have dozens of learnings and lessons to apply at McDonalds. Dozens of news tools and techniques that I master, both personally and professionally. I am awestruck by the possibilities of online learning to fix so many maladies of both our educational system and the flaled local funding systems that support them. I want to join more boards. Volunteer at charities. There are three startups that I want to start up. Which is exactly where the depression comes in. I have but one life to live. I am bound by that infinite and infernal curse of having a mere 24 hours in a day. I miss my sons terribly and already feel like they are growing up without me.

I want to jump and learn and discover and build. I also want to cry when I think of the many thousands of miles that both currently and in the future will separate me from my family. This is far from a lament. This is an opportunity. If my experience in Austin taught me anything, it is that we are living on the precipice of a new age where any problem is solvable. It is up to me to define the problem and find the solution.

SXSW 2012 is a year away. That is 365 days to see if I can solve both problems I see and ones that I have yet to fully define and comprehend. Both personally and professionally. So expect a new focus on my blog. I don’t necessarily want to write more (because forced blogging could be yet another burden to shoulder) but I want to write better. I want to develop a focus that applies the lessons of the last four days into methodical and focused journey to fixing these problems. I welcome thoughts, tips and general sharing as I count down the 365 days until the next Austin moment.

Rick Wion

Presenting Through the Hourglass

You have 15 minutes to deliver a presentation that was constructed for 45.

We’ve all been there. My first ever professional presentation happened in 1996 and was to convince my then SVP of Sales that we needed to build a Web site for the company. I had a great deck put together. A carefully crafted script and a slew of charts and handouts to make the case over the course of the scheduled hour. The SVP runs in late and says, “Wion. You got ten minutes. Go.” I quickly made the case as best I could. He didn’t bite. Early #fail.

In fact, I’ll never forget his words. “You’ve put together a well thought out proposal based on the amount of paper here. But mark my words…this Internet thing is a fad. In two years, no one will remember what it is.”

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What I Learned About Social Media from a DJ Battle

McDonald’s hosted the finals of the Flavor Battle, a national DJ comepttion with a $10,000 prize on the line. Admittedly, I’m a fan of DJ music. I find the craft and creativity of top mixers to be great for listening and jaw dropping to watch.  (So yes…I’m a bit of a fan boy)

Tweeting from the event was not only fun, but it helped drive home some lessons and planning:

Have a simple plan: Our challenge was pretty straight forward–to take an event at a small club in NYC and make it more social. That included setting up a USTREAM feed from the event and hosting a Twitter chat with three folks well known in the DJ community.

Take a “from the couch” point of view: The DJ battle was at a relatively small venue during a huge snowstorm. Even before the weather report looked bad, we knew that our online audience would be much larger than those who were able to attend in person. As such, a major portion of our plan was to drive that experience for folks watching on the Web. We also had tech teams on the ready to address any issues with the video feed. My role was stoking the Twitter conversation.

Don’t go it alone: The battle was judged by three fun, dynamic and well known folks. Spinderella @Spindeezy (formerly of Salt n Pepa) DJ Irie @DJIrie, and Rich Nice @RichxNice (amazing producer who has worked with all the big names and got 50 Cent his first record deal). Part of our “ask” of each judge was to join the Twitter conversation around the battle. This started with a Twitter chat for fans prior to the event, which had the dual aim of generating online buzz to drive more folks to watch the battle and then lasted throughout the evening to drive further conversation.

Don’t be afrarid to be careful: At times, the DJ and Hip Hop communities can use colorful language that doesn’t always fit with McDonald’s G-rated brand image. To help mitigate the risk of blue language in our Twitter stream, I conducted a 10 minute pre-game session with the celebrities where I asked them simply to “be yourself, but let’s keep this PG…or PG-13 at least. There might be some kids and moms out there.”

Don’t forget to say thank you: To your Twitter followers and conversation drivers.

Admittedly, none of these lessons may be particularly eye-opening, but given that social media tends to be a “connect through the screen only” experience, it is always refreshing to step away from the office and gain a different perspective.

Rick Wion

A Quiet Night Under the Arches

I know it has been a fortnight or more since I’ve posted, but I wanted to get back to the blog and talk about the multitude of activities going on at McDonald’s USA.

I am now 7 months in to my new role and feel I’ve gotten my sea legs on the massive and ever rolling ship that is McDonald’s. So what is going on?


If you live under a rock, you might not know that the Mc Rib is back. Through a careful mix of pre-seeding and launch activities, we’ve been able to generate a HUGE amount of chatter about the national return of my personal favorite menu item…that is if you count Wall Street Journal, Colbert, John Stewart, USA Today, Google Trends, Yahoo Hot News and a few hundred millions other traditional and social media posts a big deal.

McRib turned in to a trending topic on Twitter (before our promoted trend) on Google and Yahoo (twice). Oh, and Bill Clinton also talked about how excited he was about it.

McRib was also our first test of promoted Tweets and Trends. Yes, there were some negative tweets, but there were nothing compared to the huge majority of fans showing uber excited about the return of McRib. Fortune had a great write up on this subject:


Beyond McRib, we had a great pilot program with Farmville. Great meaning engagement of many millions more than expected.

Our Facebook places launch is raising $50,000 for charity and our virtual hands program is kicking in another $10,000.

Once things settle down, I hope to post more about each program.

Rick Wion

McDonald’s Foursquare Day Campaign Increased Checkins by 33%

Golden Arches
Click image to see full post on Mashable
You probably already saw this via Mashable (which gets a tad more traffic than my blog) but in case not, I wanted to share the case study of how we were able to use Foursquare to increase foot traffic while showing real ROI.

A huge thanks to Miss Destructo www.missdestructo.com and Dr. Nate www.brighteyesnews.com/ who made Foursquare Day possible.

Sniffing Out Real Expertise in Social Media

As the field of social media matures, there is the inevitable march of the unqualified and snake-oil sellers into this area of expertise. This is not something surprising given that social media *looks* simple, fun, hip, and sexy. Plus there is draw of, “yes you can be paid actual dollars to play on Facebook and Twitter.”

This march of the pretenders is not something new either. If you worked in the digital world through the booms of the Webmaster, push/pull technology, e-commerce or the early days of SEO, this new set of annoyingly unqualified competitors will be nothing new. However, this wave of shameless self-promoters is all the more concerning because they are using their social media footprint as their main qualifier. In a recent interview, a candidate for a job told me, “you can tell I’m an expert because I have nearly 10,000 followers on Twitter.” Hate to break it to you, but popularity does not equal expertise. 10,000 followers shows me that you are good at buidling followers, but anyone who truly knows the social media world appreciates that it is very complex and pointing to a single number as a demonstration of expertise only shows inexperience.

I have been thinking about a post on this for awhile and then I found an amazing post on the topic from Olivier Blanchard on the Brand Building Blog.

A few things about it really stuck with me:

  • A true expert is about more than numbers
  • They need passion that they can demonstrate through experience
  • That passion should easily come through in any conversation
  • They also need to be able to plan, but not a pre-baked, one-size-fits-all plan, but one that organically adapts to your organization

Read the full article. It is one of the best posts I’ve seen about this subject.

Rick Wion

It is about teleportation–not time travel

I dreamed the other night that I was a physicist working on a time travelling machine. While I am fascinated by the concepts of quantum mechanics, time travel and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, I have to admit that my understanding of the real possibilities in this area stretch no further than popular sci-fi movies and Hawking’s Brief History of Time which I read more than ten years ago.

Yet the realm of dreams is where a woeful lack of experience is hardly a disqualifier. No one ever dreamed about writing resumes. So there I was, in my lab with odd mechanical doo dads that looked something like the inside of the Jawa’s droid transport in Star Wars and a big white board for me to doodle out my calculations and formulas.

As I was toiling away staring at the aforementioned white board, I suddenly came to a major realization–I was working on the wrong problem.

In my dream, most scientists were focused on the main the challenge of time travel–the fact that you have to create a doorway (or a rip) in the space time continuum to travel from one moment to the next. While this is a daunting problem, many scientists had made great strides and the overall field of study seemed close to solving the problem.

This is when I realized that despite this progress, the community was focused on the wrong problem. The doorway was going to be created, but no one was focused on getting through the doorway. It’s not about time travel, it is about teleportation, I realized. Suddenly my entire outlook changed. It was no longer a problem of theory, but a problem was physical mechanics….and something that I could solve.

I woke up before I was able to build my machine for teleportation, but I realized that my dream was a fable for solving problems in business. It is very easy to get laser-focused on problems and solutions, but you need to ask yourself if you are focused on the real problems. This happens all the time, we are focused on budget cuts instead of real efficiency, we are focused on technology integration instead of the issues that real users have in the system.

At the end of the dream, I think I was able to solve the time travel problem by thinking differently–by zigging when everyone else is zagging.

Why I Don’t Want Traffic

Having worked in the digital world for more than 14 years now, I’ve seen lots of trends come and go–does anyone remember “push marketing”? But during that time, Web traffic has been the constant metric for measuring success…until now.

I’ve come to realize that I really don’t care about Web site traffic. Site visits are overrated.

In fact, for my next program, if I get zero visitors to McDonalds.com, I’m ok with that. I don’t want traffic, I want conversations…and conversations don’t happen on my Web site. They happen on millions of blogs, twitter pages and forums spread throughout the Web.

We are relaunching McDonalds.com right now. The new site is gorgeous and features tons of great information about our company and our menu items. We’ve also made sure that the content is easily shareable. But like a lot of brands, we aren’t trying to stoke conversation on our brand site. Those rich conversations are happening elsewhere and it wouldn’t be an efficient use of our resources to try to move them to a branded environment where we would be legally obligated monitoring and moderating, and thus stilting, those discussions.

Think about it this way. When you build a Web site, you need to drive people to it. It would be silly to think that people will just “show up” (insert tired 1990’s quote from Field of Dreams here). Getting people’s attention in terms of awareness and clicks takes a lot of time and money. For certain types of campaigns traffic should be the number one metric, but for most of mine it won’t.

But my job is to make people aware of the high quality of our ingredients and the great balance in our menu. I want folks talking about our yummy salads and the 600 calorie Happy Meal and the most effective way to do that is by talking with people and having them talk with others in return. My key metrics will be the number of posts, and tweets that are generated. The number of comments/replies will be very important. The tone and sentiment of the conversations will also be critical.

It is a simple view of the Conversation Economy where traffic doesn’t count.