Screen shot of Taco Bell Twitter Feed

Say what you will about the Doritos Locos Taco Supreme, but there’s one truly delicious thing Taco Bell is offering its fans these days: a fantastic Twitter engagement experience.

Not only does Taco Bell have one of the best Twitter accounts in the fast food industry; it’s also considered to have one of the best major brand accounts, period.

Established brands often struggle to figure out the social media voice and content their audience will value, and so they create the kind of Tweetstream that dabbles in promotion and conversation, but never really manages to hit a stride.

Taco Bell, however, clearly decided its voice needed to be just as spicy as its menu, and the company took an edgy leap in the direction of a distinct tone and style. Sure, Taco Bell’s “character” might not work for a different brand, but it suits Taco Bell’s followers just fine—which is why all marketers would benefit by turning to Taco Bell’s best practices for inspiration.

Let’s take a look at why Taco Bell is one of the hottest brands on Twitter:

  • Taco Bell is having a good time . . . and since that’s what most of its demographic is trying to do on Twitter, the company fits right in. Jokes, sassy comebacks, quirky commentary and silly pictures all find a place in Taco Bell’s stream, and the company’s fans are eating it up—as evidenced by how often @TacoBell is re-Tweeted and responded to.
  • Taco Bell pays attention to conversations it’s a part of—and continues them for the world to see. The Taco Bell account is full of re-Tweets of mentions, whether the original Tweeter used the company’s @ handle or not. Some of the Tweets shared are from celebrities—which leads to a flurry of re-Tweets from fans—but many are from “normal people” with just a handful of followers. Either way, Taco Bell is happy to spread the love.

Taco Bell also engages in conversation, whether that’s responding to a funny quip with an equally funny quip, answering a question about its products or handling sincere customer service concerns. The company manages to strike the right tone and offer the right information in each response, giving followers confidence that there’s a human behind the Tweets, not just a brand.

  • Taco Bell focuses on engagement over promotion — and ends up accomplishing both. By putting an emphasis on conversation and interaction, rather than a long stream of Tweets about products and current specials, the Taco Bell name makes its way into many more streams, landing the brand in front of more eyeballs… and more people who might be craving a Chalupa!
    Taco Bell also Tweets into trending hashtags (#IGotAThingFor, #ItsHardForMe, #TalkLikeYourBestFriend, etc.), resulting in even more exposure. Brands like Kenneth Cole and American Apparel have attempted to go this route before, with negative ramifications—mostly because they used hashtags to “newsjack” events like the Arab Spring and Hurricane Sandy. By contrast, Taco Bell wisely stays on the lighter side of Twitter conversation.
    Using trending hashtags also allows Taco Bell to gear its content toward what’s going on in fans’ streams, and that, in turn, enables the company to “fit in” and stay relevant each day.
  • Taco Bell connects Twitter with offline experiences. The results can be both hilarious AND touching. Recent efforts include a taco giveaway to soldiers returning from the war, a custom Speedo for a devoted high school fan and a free taco day—complete with a hashtag customers could use to say thank you and share photos.

Even if Taco Bell’s sassy style doesn’t suit your brand or your audience, each of these strategies can find a place in any brand’s social media arsenal. Taco Bell succeeds because it knows what its fans want (translation: it’s gleaning value from its data!), and the company isn’t afraid to be different—which is another lesson every brand should take to heart. Creative data-driven approaches are not an oxymoron; that’s why “Taco Bell sounds good” … sounds good to so many.