Taco Bell’s Lawsuit Promoted Tweet

Posted: January 27, 2011 by SteveOnTheBike in business, Social Media
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Taco Bell is the first ever to use a promoted tweet to make an official statement about their lawsuit.

Taco Bell promoted tweet about lawsuit

Taco Bell promoted tweet about lawsuit

I arrived to work exceptionally early today.  I got my tabs and windows up and running and noticed something that looked completely normal.  Taco Bell was promoting a tweet.  Sweet!  I was hoping for a free taco.  Or, better yet, a free Nachos Bell Grande!

Turned out that this promoted tweet was much different than any other I had ever seen.  Taco Bell was using their promoted tweet to release an official company legal statement regarding a class action lawsuit from a California woman regarding the quality of their beef.  No free tacos.  No half off discounts.  Rather, a one page statement of legal jargon and adamant statements by Taco Bell’s President and Chief Concept Officer.

Should Taco Bell Promote a Tweet about their Lawsuit?

I’m not here to argue the validity or falsehoods of this lawsuit.  In all honestly, its not even going to detour me from eating there.  I love their food.  In fact, this has prompted my co-workers and I to go there later today for lunch.  And we’ll all probably check in on Foursquare from there.

To me, the debate at hand, from a marketing and public relations standpoint, is whether or not using a tool like a promoted tweet is the appropriate or effective way to issue such a statement.  This was the first I had even heard that Taco Bell was being sued over such a claim.  Would I have even found out about it had they, themselves, not pushed the issue in front of me?  When I notified my boss of the tweet and apparent lawsuit, he knew nothing either.  However, my other two co-workers did have knowledge of the lawsuit.  They had heard about it on the radio before today.

At first I thought it was an ill-advised move.  Why go around broadcasting your controversies?  And why would you pay a platform like Twitter to do so?

Then my public relations degree kicked in (Yeah! BYU, class of ’06).  The more I thought about it I have only one word:  Brilliant!  Yeah, Taco Bell is going to inform more people about the lawsuit than probably would’ve found out about it in the end, but it’s better that you be the one informing them than a bunch of angry customers, and bloggers, and Twitter users, and news achors, and Facebook updates and aspiring writers.

Just consider the speed at which Twitter and Facebook function?  It takes literally minutes for someone or something to be a national trend for all the wrong reasons.  With today’s social media boom, wrong reports and ill-speaking travels like wildfire in windy conditions.  If the history of public relations and publicity has taught us anything, it’s better to get out in front of an issue before you have to chase it down.

Still a bold move? Yes.  I had never seen anything like it.  Was it a wise, bold move?  Only time will really tell.  But for now, I say definitely.

  1. thos003 says:

    Thanks for the post Steve. I must say that I am shocked by this approach… But then I realize the genius behind it. Great move on their part. Definitely better to get out ahead of something versus chasing it once it gets loose.

  2. danica says:

    This is a great post and I totally agree. I think at first it was almost a negative thing but they put such a positive spin on it, and I agree, I love their food too. It’s better to be honest about things than to try to cover them up to have them come out later. Upfront is the best idea!

    • Thanks Danica, up front and honest is no doubt the best long term strategy. And the president didn’t just make a bunch of statements. They laid out their recipe and gave the necessary information to fight the argument.

  3. jey pandian says:

    I thought it was foolish too of Taco Bell to share a lawsuit on them with the world then I realized the intelligence behind this move.

    In my honest opinion, when have we ever seen negative news go viral when the company in question comes out and shares it first? Never. Its only when companies fall prey to human nature and try to hide or push things under the carpet that we (the public) get mad.

    Smart move Taco Bell.

    • I think sometimes big corporations feel they have so much on the line that they just try to keep quiet. But in today’s info age, it’s going to get talked about and shared and shared again.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. This was a very savvy move on the part of Taco Bell. Things can get out of control very quickly on the internet. A proactive move to address the issue helped to curb negative social media. Well done.

  5. James Hansen says:

    It only makes sense to do this because it is a national story. Sales 101 says when there is an elephant in the room you better talk about it. We live in a culture of no admission of fault lawsuit settlements. Most normal people now believe that when company doesn’t say anything it means they are guilty, thus by addressing this in this format is just smart. The PR guys/gal needs a raise.

    • Totally agree on silence “equaling” guilt. I’m a big sports guy and we see it in sports all. the. time. There are too many text book examples to even start citing. But the one that stands out to me of how to combat the stories is Lance Armstrong. He’s out in front of his issues all the time, usually by the end of the day. For that I think the general population gives him the benefit of the doubt, and if anything should truly pops up, we’d all STILL give him more benefit than most others.

  6. Walnut Mouse says:

    My vote is for clever.

  7. You raise a very interesting point, Steve – should a negative publicity be swept under the rug, ignored, or addressed head on? In my experience, nothing can be hushed these days. If you ignore it, people will talk about it and make up their own stories. Addressing it is the only way to have your side of the story heard.

    But promote? That’s ingenious! In politics, every wrongdoing is first denied; then the truth comes out, but nobody cares because the interest is gone and it’s the denial that everyone remembers. Principle applies here – let me tell you about a law suit using my own words, so when you hear about it from someone else, you can tell them where they are wrong. Brilliant!

    • That’s what I found so interesting about their decision to promote a tweet. Getting out in front is a no-brainer, and most companies would probably just put something up on their website and push out an official statement for all the news outlets to quote from on their nightly broadcasts. And they didn’t just tweet out a link to that statement, but actually paid so that everyone would see it front and center and know about it. They paid money to inform people.

  8. Brew says:

    I would say this is a perfect way to use promoted tweets. Right now, I’m staring at my Tweetdeck, seeing that BRIGHT yellow “Promoted by Meet-Meme” permanently at the top of my #sxsw column. It grabs my attention. It’s always there. Whether I drop in and out of my office, or in and out of the twitter stream, I’m bound to see it.

    Taco Bell has a message it wants to spread fast. It has a stance to take. By promoting a tweet about this stance, they are able to reach thousands of people per minute, and hundreds of thousands an hour. (With the right keyword promotions of course 🙂 )

    When I read your article, I wasn’t too concerned about whether or not it was a good idea for Taco Bell to get out in front of this. Maybe it’s because we’re currently in the thick of experimenting with promoted tweets. But this changes everything. It hits me where I am, when I am, and they aren’t advertising a thing. They just want the eyeballs, right?

    • thos003 says:

      Good points Drew. Nice to have your perspective as a twitter promoted tweet advertiser. They are at least managing some control of the debate by speaking up. It is still a risky move. The audience may not support your view. Moves like that can sometimes throw more fuel on the fire.

  9. Steve, Thanks for sharing this story
    Let’s face it, from an online reputation management stand point, this initiative makes some noise. Hence I’m wondering if the “promoted tweet” paying media is the most indicated to defend a corporate position in a legal action.
    First, Is the public place the right place to comment an in-course legal-related argument?
    Personally I don’t think so. It may seem pretty indecent.
    Second, is advertising a good way to manage your reputation?
    Once again, I’m not sure. I believe the advertising media may corrupt the sincerity of the message as some public may think advertising has far less authority than the journalistic-news media for example.
    Third, is the “make a lot a noise” reputation management a good strategy?
    Here, I consider it brillian!!! The Taco Bell corporate management initiative is proactive and orient the discussion on corporate controlled themes and makes a lot easier the reputation management. Technically, a social media fade is going to make quite some noise and will play in favor of the corporate position. Doing such a thing, recent BP or Netslé online reputations disasters would have been less deep than they have effectively been.
    Let’s now wait and see the outcome of this initiative in the next few days and more important, lets see the opposing response.

    • thos003 says:

      I agree that no one should make themselves into the fool. And often times it is more noble and respectable to keep shut. But I see the power of putting it out there and making your statement so that the world can judge for themselves. Bringing the argument and accusations out in the open help to stop the whispering rumors that start an uncontrolled fire.

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