Taco Bell Think Outside the Bun Speedo LogoSocial media can be a powerful tool for any company or agency. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other platforms are excellent at communicating with customers, building brands, and generating buzz and attention. Unfortunately, many companies fail to take advantage of the benefits social media provides. If only using social media was like using a power tool; Set it up, push a button, and you get magical brand awareness and conversions! Social media still requires work, and most importantly an understanding of how to act online. Yesterday afternoon, Taco Bell showed it understands exactly how to use social media.

Being Friends with Taco Bell Pays Off

Yesterday afternoon, news broke that Taco Bell had gone out of their way to provide a certain customized piece of clothing to a random Facebook fan who had the courage to ask for it. Laura Stampler at the Business Insider writes, “Taco Bell is sending a high school swimmer a custom-made Speedo that reads “Think Outside the Buns” on the butt.”

The high school swimmer asked Taco Bell directly on their Facebook page, and a few weeks later received a request for his address and size, and a shortly after said Speedo appeared on his doorstep, free of charge from his friends at Taco Bell’s social media team.

If you’re anything like me, you realized immediately that this was a genius move by Taco Bell’s social media team. This is the sort of bizarre action that goes viral; it’s hilarious, surprising, unexpected, quick and easy to understand, and it gets everyone’s attention. Taco Bell turned an innocent post into a virtual gold mine for building its strong brand even more.

Throw Serious Out the Window

Too many businesses take social media a bit too seriously. Being serious all the time is not a great way to take advantage of followers and friends, plus it’s boring. There certainly is a place for serious responses to followers and fans, especially when it comes to customer service. But simple responses to funny requests or sarcastic remarks are just as important.

As Martha C. White for CNBC quotes Tressie Lieberman, director of digital and social engagement at Taco Bell explaining, “Beyond what we’re putting out to the masses, we want to engage with everyone individually … it’s tough to respond to every single person … but we definitely want to make sure people know we’re listening.”

Martha continues to write about another fine example of Taco Bell’s social media savvy, explaining an event that occurred after the company cancelled its salsa last year. The strongest complaints about the cancellation were sent the last few batches by Tressie’s team in recognition of the “most vociferous objections.”

Pay Attention to Brands Like Taco Bell

Any small business or agency looking to up its social media game should keep an eye on Taco Bell’s Twitter and Facebook pages. We all can learn a lot from the focus and attention their team gives to digital marketing and social media use. Tressie’s team actually sent the swimmer two Speedos: one with the old “Think Outside the Bun” slogan and one with the new “Live Mas” slogan. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some Taco Bell branded bikini bottoms or other swimwear in the near future.

Ultimately, good social media use is about connecting with consumers on a level field. Taco Bell wasn’t trying to sell anything, nor were they ignoring the request as ridiculous. By responding they turned a fan into an even greater fan and got more press than they could have paid for. To me that’s a successful social media team at work.

Most importantly, to quote the high school student, “No one thought Taco Bell was this cool.” Now that’s a job well done.

What do you think about the Taco Bell Speedo and the company’s social media team? Would you want one (if you wore a Speedo)?