Taco Bell Beefs Up Facebook ‘Likes’ – With Leftovers

tacobellTaco Bell turned a class action lawsuit into a Facebook campaign and helped lift its “likes” by roughly 250,000 during the last week. The quick-serve chain employed a like-gating tactic that’s become common among marketers on the social site.

Announced on February 8, the brand offered a free beef taco to Facebook users who “liked” it. The offer was good for consumers who had already “liked” Taco Bell – 5.4 million at the time – as well as newcomers. The fast-food brand committed to giving away 10 million coupons for the tacos, which typically retail from $.99 to $1.09. Consumers had until February 15 to access and use the coupons.

By the end of the promotion, Taco Bell had a total of 5.65 million “likes,” a net gain of 250,000. Although Taco Bell did not disclose how many coupons were redeemed, as many as 4 million free tacos were left on the table. Four million represents the difference between the total number of “likes” – 5.65 million -and the total number of coupons available.

The Irvine, CA-based brand ran Facebook.com ads to drive more “likes” and coupon downloads. It was part of a larger PR campaign attempting to refute an Alabama class action lawsuit that claims Taco Bell’s seasoned beef is only 35 percent actual beef.

ClickZ asked two social marketing providers what they thought of a hypothetical example of restaurant chain getting 250,000 “likes” in a week with a giveaway campaign. (To avoid potential bias, we did not ask them specifically about Taco Bell.)

Vijay Pullur, CEO of SocialTwist, said an effort would produce more “likes” if it created incentives for sharing. “If customers were rewarded for passing on [the coupon] to their friends, a successful campaign would have yielded more than a million people,” he said. “They should be thinking in terms of the power of word-of-mouth and how to best encourage their customers to share with and talk to their friends.”

Kevin Barenblat, CEO of Facebook marketing firm Context Optional, said such a campaign’s success is probably best measured by coupon redemption rates, sales numbers, and ROI. “Fan growth and percent of engaged fans are only building blocks to understanding success in social,” he said.

Taco Bell didn’t reveal many specifics when asked by ClickZ. Brand spokesperson Rob Poetsch wrote in an e-mail that the promotion “was an effective way to leverage the power of social media by thanking and rewarding our most loyal customers for their support.”

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