Posted onOctober 7, 2014
Taco Bell Mixes in Each Social Platform as Appropriate
AN INTERVIEW WITH: Nick Tran,Head of Social Media, Taco Bell
September 17, 2013
When it comes to social engagement, there are many platforms marketers can choose from. Nick Tran, head of social media at Taco Bell, talked about choosing the right platform—whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Vine or Twitter—and trends the company is seeing for 2014.
Question: What are some social ad trends you’re seeing in the space?
Nick Tran: A lot of brands are starting to understand the opportunity that social really provides—it takes traditional marketing and makes it a little bit more personable with two-way communication. I think that’s going to be a huge trend, where people start to create content that’s a little bit more genuine and authentic and less photoshopped. As
social starts to transition toward that look and feel, I think you’ll see a lot more creative come out of that space and just a lot more cocreation amongst users, as well as from brands.
Question: How big a chunk of digital advertising will social media on mobile get?
Tran: I’m thinking about the past few releases I’ve seen, like with Instagram saying at some point it’s going to include mobile advertising on the platform. Oftentimes, social media platforms begin by not having an advertising model, in order to gain that mass audience, and once they reach a certain scale, they then try to monetize the platform
and incorporate things like digital advertising.
It’s very similar to the dot-com days, when sites would just kind of go up, and you didn’t really see how they were monetizing, but once they reached a certain threshold and scale, they then found ways to incorporate advertising. Obviously, costs go up as they grow, and they need to find ways to get funded. So that’s just an evolutionary trait within the marketing industry and media as a whole.
“As we start to develop the relationships in social, it will be less advertising-focused, and it’ll be more organic messaging incorporated into an overall relationship with the customer that we start to build.”
Question: Facebook and Twitter are playing a big role in the native ad trend. What do you see happening next?
Tran: I don’t want to just throw product messages to our fans, because that’s not really why they connect with us. So I’m trying to reach them and build that relationship in addition to letting them know what we’re offering. So as we start to develop the relationships in social, it will be less advertising-focused, and it’ll be more organic messaging incorporated into an overall relationship with the customer that we start to build.
Question: Will social be a necessity for marketers in 2014?
Tran: Social gives brands an opportunity to listen to their customers.
It’s something we take a lot of pride in, and we’re scouring social media for things our consumers are saying, whether it’s about products or the brand in general, and we’re always listening. Any brands that aren’t listening to the conversation at least have to be aware of the conversations going on, whether or not they want to participate. But the brands that are starting to embrace that are able to redefine how they will market to consumers [by using] listening, which is something we’ve been doing for the past couple of years.
Question: How much social advertising is going to be created, bought and placed in real time?
Tran: There are specific brands that might have a good fit with a particular opportunity, and they’re able to jump in and react in real time. For us, it’s more about finding the right opportunity. So you don’t take advantage of every moment you can and do things in real time.
“Real-time marketing is really about not only the right moments, but also the right fit and whether it is something the brand should have a say in.”
For example, when the royal baby was born, it wasn’t something that was an authentic fit for our brand, so there’s no reason for us to jump in and participate in that conversation or produce any campaign around that, even though it’s something you can technically plan for.
For us, real-time marketing is really about not only the right moments, but also the right fit and whether it is something the brand should have a say in. I think as brands start to explore real-time activities, they need to find what’s appropriate for them to jump on and play in.
Question: Taco Bell uses a variety of different channels, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Which one do you find to be the most effective?
Tran: It’s tough to really say one is more effective than the other.
Each platform serves its purpose, and with every single platform we play on, it starts with us finding out whether our fans want to participate with us there. When we first ventured into Facebook, it was because there were a lot of folks who were on the platform and looking for us.
Then, some of our audience migrated to Twitter or just joined Twitter because they were of the age where that was the more engaging platform. Then, Instagram came out, and now YouTube is a big focus for us. It really is more so a byproduct of the holistic picture of what we’re doing in social, rather than stating which one is primary or which one we find more engaging.
If you just look at sheer numbers, we have a lot of fans on Facebook compared with our Twitter and Instagram audiences. But at the same time, there are so many interactions you can have on Twitter that are compelling and create a lot more relevance and get picked up by the media that we think it’s also equally engaging. And then with Instagram, there’s that ability to tell stories through pictures that creates another opportunity for us to explore and develop new creative work.
The same thing is true with Vine. It’s another platform—though we don’t have many followers on Vine, we still think it’s a great opportunity for us to show our creative work in 6-second intervals.
Every platform has a unique place for us to play, and we’re going to play wherever our fans are playing. So if they end up migrating to a new platform and want to engage with us there, we’ll evaluate it and jump into that platform as well.
Question: How are you driving social engagement?
Tran: We look at marketing as a whole—there’s a bigger story to tell.
I think social media will play a significant role, but it also has to be coupled with PR efforts, as well as media efforts across all areas of marketing, such as TV and radio, and it’ll touch all screens, whether it be desktop, mobile or tablet.