What do tacos and your higher institution have in common? Well, for one, they both appeal to college students. Beyond that, Taco Bell is showing us that it can do more than serve up tacos on a Saturday night. Higher institutions can a learn a thing or two from their energetic and engaging social media presence that largely appeals to a young audience.

Why Taco Bell is a Marketing Genius

Taco Bell has hit some rough patches throughout the years, there’s no denying that. Instead of disappearing into the background or lowering their service to “meet” the stereotypes, they’ve managed to disconnect themselves from some of the bad press.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why Taco Bell is pure marketing genius.

They know who they are.

Taco Bell is proud to offer quick-serve Mexican food. It’s something different than the traditional burger-and-fry joints around, which was made clear with the “Think Outside the Bun” slogan. Today, their slogan is “Live Mas.”

Taco Bell is also proud to offer a drive thru. Other fast food restaurants steer attention away from the fact that they have a drive thru, but Taco Bell knows that fast, fresh food is what their customers want. The food chain has even introduced online ordering so customers can skip the line inside!

Though the menu continues to change, there are always the staples you can count on: tacos, bean burritos and quesadillas. In the end, Taco Bell is confident in their shell (no pun intended).

They know their target audience.

Taco Bell is confident in who their audience is and what they want. Though most people enjoy eating a taco from time to time, they realize their target audience is between the ages of 18-34 years old and sees the value in eating healthy.

To accommodate this “healthier” style of eating, Taco Bell offers vegetarian meals and protein skillet bowls. They have black beans and rice or pintos and cheese that can be served on the side, as opposed to the traditionally popular chips or fries. Taco Bell customers like the fact that they can get decent food at a fair price.

They know how to use social media.

Taco Bell knows how to navigate the murky waters of social media. They have established a personality and are quick to engage with their community. If you’ve ever read their posts, you know that they are simple and down to earth. Nothing fancy or mind-boggling, but they are easy to like and engage with.

Taco Bell even has their own app for customers who want to order online, customize their food or skip the line inside. Rewards are available on the app, too, giving users incentives beyond convenience. Plus, the food chain has a way of using bright colors, simple graphics and other intuitive features that give their marketing materials an edge.

So what does all of this mean for your higher institution? Let’s find out!

What You Can Learn from Taco Bell

Taco Bell isn’t a perfect company, but they are rather successful in their marketing efforts. They’ve managed to rebrand themselves while putting a healthy spin on an otherwise unhealthy food chain. Long gone are the days of “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” Today, the brand is about “living more” and many of their posts feature people out and about enjoying life.

Here are a few of the ways that you can make your higher institution live more, too.

Content Engagement

As we mentioned before, Taco Bell isn’t particularly fancy with their content. Most posts or tweets are simple and straight to the point, but they have a way of getting responses. Sure, you can argue that there’s nothing serious about tacos. But it’s also just as easy to assume there’s not much to say about tacos, either.

Think about how you can connect with your young college audience using content of a similar sort. Also be sure to create opportunities for user-generated content. Taco Bell tends to feature content with people visiting their restaurants and eating their food. You can do the same by asking students to share their first-day photos or upload pictures of their favorite cafeteria food. The purpose of doing this is to get more exposure for your institution in a way that is fun and personable.

Social Listening

One thing that Taco Bell does very well is social listening. They provide their customers with almost immediate support whether it’s a question about a new menu item or the latest deals in the area. Though it might not seem like a fast food restaurant would have a need to be on social media, Taco Bell has reminded us what this channel is truly for. By being available for their customers, the brand assures customers that they are connected and listening.

The same goes for your higher institution. Except for that your audience isn’t buying a taco. They’re buying an education. This means that your presence is even more important. Be available to provide support, respond to feedback and answer questions. If you’re not getting direct engagement, create discussions and get people talking. Hold a Q&A session or share a podcast.

The purpose of being on social media is to improve your brand personality and grow your community. If you’re not there listening to your audience and engaging with them, there’s no one to speak on your behalf. Prospects might conjure ideas in their head about what your school is like, or they might be pulled away from other colleges and universities that are present.

If you are ever unsure about how to improve your brand personality, think about Taco Bell and what they’re doing right. They know who they are, they know who their audience is and they know how to use social media. Those are three important ingredients for successful social media marketing, and with them, you can be an effective social media listener too.