If I could have another job besides the one I have, I think I might like to be a social media expert. Not a social media advisor who teaches people and companies how to use new media to their advantage, but someone who studies how social media is changing our culture and the way people learn information and form opinions.


I’m especially intrigued by how social media can give a loud voice to people whose causes would most likely not have been widely noticed in the past. Take a recent McDonald’s apology to dog owners, for example. A regional McDonald’s radio ad that ran in the Kansas City area said, “eating a Chicken McBite was less risky than petting a stray pit bull, shaving your head, naming your son Sue or giving friends your Facebook password.”


This offended pit bull owners and supporters, and a social media campaign was launched accusing McDonald’s of "false advertising" and "creating an unfair image in the public eye for dogs." The campaign gave an 800 number for McDonald’s that supporters could call. It also accused anyone who didn’t call as being okay with the ad by saying “your silence is agreement.”


A Facebook page was started called Pit Bulls Against McDonald’s. It currently has more than 9,700 followers. A petition titled Positive Pit Bull Imagery in a McDonald’s Commercial was also started. It currently has more than 1,500 signatures.


McDonald's quickly made an apology and made sure the offensive ads were pulled.


I’m intrigued by this lightning fast process that social media has created. In the past, someone offended by a radio ad would call or write to the radio station and the company advertising to launch a complaint. Perhaps they would share their views with some friends who might also launch complaints. It wasn’t likely to go much further. Now, within hours, thousands of people or more can join together when they are offended. They can add their voices to that of the first person who brought the offense to light and companies are much more likely to take notice.


I’m not saying this is a good process or a bad process. (I’m sure it can be both, depending on the cause.) All I’m saying is that I find it intriguing.


There’s a second Facebook page called Pit Bulls Against McDonald's Want More than an apology! I don’t think the same people who started the original Facebook page started it. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong about that.) An apology is not enough for some people. They want McDonald’s to do more, like donate money to a pit bull rescue or feature a pit bull in their advertising in a positive light.


I believe an apology and quickly pulling the ads would have been enough in the past (and personally, I think it should be enough now). But now, a few people think it’s not enough and the issue continues. McDonald’s must now decide how to deal with this still dissatisfied group — if it all. If someone doesn’t like the outcome of that, social media can keep the dissatisfaction going. 


This is why I’d find it fascinating to study how social media is changing our culture and how people form opinions through it. The same cause can result in almost instant gratification (McDonald’s quick actions) and prolonged dissatisfaction (the few who aren’t happy with the results can still rile up others) at the same time. It will be interesting to see how this aspect of social media plays out in the long run, don’t you think? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

In the social media age, offense spreads quickly
McDonald's apologizes to dog owners after a local ad offends pit bull owners — and a social media campaign ensued. Those who don't think the fast-food chain d