Fast Food for Thought: Why McDonald’s Has 5x More Likes Than Burger King But 20x Less Engagement

A great talk by the CMO of Wendy’s at Advertising Week inspired us to take a look at the QSR industry’s impact online. We spent time looking at the Facebook presence of the big 6—McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, Arby’s and Wendy’s—and what we discovered was extraordinary. Very ironically, looking at fast food online ended up being a great exercise to better understanding social media.

Once we crunched some numbers, it became very apparent that the QSR industry reflects the trend that the number of likes a brand’s page has gathered has nothing to do with the amount of engagement on that brand’s page. Here is what that quantity/quality gap looks like:

On the left side, you see the number of Facebook likes in millions. Brands that are closer to the top have more likes on their page than brands closer to the bottom of the chart.

Going left to right is the engagement rate, measured by the total number of likes, comments and shares on the brand’s last ten posts as a percentage of their total likes. Basically, how many of the people who have “liked” are actually engaged in the brand’s content?

All the way on the upper-left corner are McDonald’s and Subway—two remarkable examples of the quantity/quality gap. Although these brand have the most likes out of any other QSR chain that we measured, those fans aren’t actually involved in the page. While McDonald’s and Subway have the highest number of likes, they also sport the lowest rates of engagement.

On the other end of the spectrum is Burger King, with just one-fifth of the amount of likes as McDonald’s, but over twenty times the engagement.

Why do McDonald’s and Subway have the largest followings and the least engagement?

McDonald’s and Subway think social media is TV…but TV is for self promotion. Social Media is for fan participation.

Take a look at some recent McDonald’s and Subway Facebook content: nice imagery to remind people that the food is good, the deals are nice and the brand exists. It’s a TV spot—entirely unfitting to the social media world, where people log in to be a part of something. This content can’t inspire discussion; it can’t inspire participation.

Why does Burger King have a small following and huge engagement?

They use their wall to ignite discussion.


But not the same discussion. They switch it up.

(You can compare this to Arby’s, who will often try to recreate the same discussions)


They reward their customers for participating by actively listening to them.

Here’s a great example. Burger King recently polled their Facebook followers to find out what they wanted from Burger King on Facebook.

They found that a huge majority of their fans just wanted deals—so they provided them with deals. Look how the crowds responded! Standing ovation! A whopping fifty-four thousand likes!