There’s a whole lot of overlap in product offerings within the fast food industry and it can be difficult to differentiate yourself – after all, everyone claims that their burgers are the best and that their fries are the crispiest. At the end of the day, a lot of what makes or breaks a fast food chain comes down to how consumers view them as a brand. That’s part of what makes social media so important for these guys.

We took a look at how some of the biggest names in fast food cut through the noise and create a distinctive social media experience to keep customers flooding in. You’ll notice that a lot of these concepts can be applied to any industry, so read on and find out how you can adapt them for your own strategy.

5 Powerful Social Media Practices From The Fast Food Industry

Taco Bell: Utilizing Twitter polls and showing off celebrity endorsements

It seems like Taco Bell can do no wrong when it comes to social media. When Twitter released their poll feature last October, the taco giant was one of the first brands to take advantage. They’ve continued to do so into the new year, posting another two polls in the first half of January.

The first poll asked fans to choose their preferred Doritos Locos taco, a useful tactic for gauging interest in your products. Meanwhile, the second appealed to their college-age following by challenging them to predict the score of a collegiate football game. The fans proved eager to participate – between them, the polls received more than 26,000 votes.

But that’s not all they’ve been busy with on Twitter. Taco Bell tends to inspire a certain level of fanaticism in some of its consumers, some of whom happen to be pretty well-known. They make the most of this by habitually reposting some of their more famous endorsers, a group that recently included the likes of superstar DJ Dillon Francis (a notable social media user in his own right) and former Playboy covergirl Holly Madison.

These tweets make them popular by association and are, by definition, more authentic than paid influencer posts. If you’re lucky enough to have celebrities talking about your brand, retweet!

taco bell

McDonald’s: Turning products into Instagram-worthy art

It’s always refreshing to see a brand that just ‘gets’ the Instagram aesthetic, and it’s safe to say that McDonald’s falls into that category. Their official Instagram page goes far beyond your average food pictures. Turning brand staples like fries and apple pies into bite-sized pieces of art, the marketing team at Mickey D’s has crafted an Instagram profile that looks great.

There are a few things at work here. The first is the creativity aspect. By taking something like a handful of French fries and turning it into something novel, McDonald’s adds value for its fans.

If people wanted to look at pictures of fries they wouldn’t have to look very far, but the artistic nature of the images gives people something fresh and entertaining. In other words, it gives them a reason to follow along. And 1.1 million people have done just that.

Another notable feature in each of the images is the use of one strong dominant color, like the bright shade of blue in the apple pie picture below. This works really well with Instagram’s grid format, creating a color-blocking effect that makes their profile pop with color. You can read about the importance of a good-looking grid and other Instagram best practices in our Instagram Checklist.

The focus on striking imagery has allowed McDonald’s to habitually top 20,000 likes on their photos, easily besting our Instagram Analyser average engagement rate of 0.86% for pages with over 1 million followers.


KFC: Expressing brand values with strong video content

Kentucky Fried Chicken has implemented a number of interesting strategies on social media, but let’s look at how one of their regional pages – their Philippines Facebook page – has managed to tell a compelling story about the brand that resonates with the local market.

During the holiday season, KFC Philippines took the opportunity to craft video content around Thanksgiving and Christmas with themes of family and giving. Both videos succeeded in appealing to family-centric Filipino values, as evidenced by the impressive engagement stats.

The Christmas video centers around the premise that KFC’s delivery personnel sacrifice time with their families on Christmas day to support their loved ones. In the video, the fast food chain surprises one of their employees by arranging a staged delivery to a celebration with his family. Things quickly take a turn for the heartwarming as the delivery rider and his mother express their teary-eyed gratitude.

Comments on the video are telling. This one, which received 47 likes of its own, captures the sentiment shared by many commenters: “Grabe nakakaiyak (Very touching)! Thank you KFC for the value that you gave to your employees. May you be an example of a good employer. God bless.” The video attracted more than 900,000 views and 15,000 engagements.

The “Deliver It Forward” video they created for Thanksgiving plays upon similar themes. Here, one person chooses a loved one to receive a free bucket of KFC chicken. That person then selects someone else to receive their own bucket, who selects someone else, and so on. The cycle of giving begins with Cheska and Doug Kramer – a local celebrity couple well known for their strong family values – before making its way through the streets of Manila.

With its perfectly suited celebrity appearance and powerful message, “Deliver It Forward” amassed almost 17,000 engagements and drew in over a million views.


In-N-Out: Regularly engaging in conversation with fans

West coast burger chain In-N-Out has an extraordinarily loyal following, due in no small part to its unchanging family-owned structure and commitment to fresh ingredients. While they rarely post content via social media, they’ve successfully leveraged Facebook to keep their consumers informed and engaged in conversation.

As far as fast food brands go, their Facebook activity is barebones, limited to announcing the opening of new stores and updating their cover photo. But where the chain really shines is in how it responds to its followers. Every post is littered with requests by fans to open a store in their area – a testament to the chain’s wild popularity – and In-N-Out does a great job of acknowledging and responding to as many of them as it can.

Simple things like including the customer’s name and answering specifically make each response feel personalized. The responses also include the name of the community manager who posted them, reminding the consumer that they’re talking to a real person. All in all, it’s a shining example of how brands can use Facebook as a tool to connect with fans. Their excellent track record of answering questions has earned them the coveted “Typically responds within an hour” badge.

In-N-Out are lucky to be dealing with such overwhelming positive feedback. If you’re unsure of how to manage the occasional negative comment, check out our guide here.


Key Takeaways:

1) Invite your fans into the conversation with Twitter polls
2) Retweet celebrity endorsements whenever possible
3) Provide an interesting Instagram experience by framing your products in a creative way
4) Appeal to local markets with powerful video content that expresses your company values
5) Utilize Facebook for quick and personal customer service