Social Media

Top 3 Social Media Lessons From Yum! Brands

By DOM Team| 9 Min Read | July 12, 2016
Col Sanders

Yum Brand Blog Temporary

Whether it’s in our personal or professional lives, doing the bare minimum rarely cuts it. In the early days of social media, marketers and brands considered such platforms to be an added bonus or an avenue that took far less priority than their other marketing tactics. Nowadays, the majority of businesses view social media as a vital part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

One of the most underappreciated traits that any successful person or business should possess to tap into their full potential is self-awareness. Anyone with an honest understanding of their strengths and weaknesses will leverage this knowledge to work with other folks to fill in their collective gaps.

There’s no doubt that social media is tough and requires a thought out plan of attack in order to execute with any efficiency. And although social media is not necessarily a silver bullet solution for businesses of every size, it’s still important to have an understanding of how people use social media and how it can help your marketing efforts.

You don’t need to be an expert on social media, but there’s no reason why you can’t look to the experts for inspiration. Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, Yum! Brands collectively has 3 of the largest fast food brands in the world. Here are some of the best social media lessons learned from a powerhouse in the fast casual dining industry.

1. Kentucky Fried Chicken — Put the audience first and think outside of the box (or bucket).

When we think about fast food, we most often will first think of standard burger fare like McDonalds, Burger King, or even In ‘N Out Burger. But when we think of branding and imagery associated with fast food, is there any person more synonymous with fast food than Colonel Sanders?

(As it happens, our team is quite obsessed with the Colonel as evidenced below.)


Born on September 9, 1890, Harland D. Sanders had a varied resume before eventually turning his patented fried chicken recipe into a global empire. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) became a household name soon after Sanders began to grow the number of franchises after closing his Corbin, Kentucky restaurant in 1952.

With such a large name in fast food and locations all over the world, KFC has its set of challenges in an industry that is steeped with a wide array of competitors. To stay relevant and continue to amplify their brand messaging, KFC has used social media in such a way that anyone can learn and apply.

Example 1 — User-Generated Content in India

One tactic that many brands have used on social media is promoting content that encourages users and followers to participate in the fun. KFC India wanted to support the launch of their in-store radio station, Radio KFC, and wanted to leverage community involvement to make it a success.


Image via Blink

So in 2012, they launched the Radio KFC RJ Hunt campaign where through a Facebook application, users could submit their audition to become one the radio’s new Radio Jockeys (RJs). With over 3,000 auditions submitted from over 30 cities in India, the campaign helped the KFC India Facebook page acquire 170,000 new fans.

Example 2 — Colonel Sanders’ LinkedIn Account  

More recently, KFC launched a new campaign that centers around their beloved mascot, Colonel Sanders. While you might think that only some social platforms may work for certain brands, KFC really went outside of the box and decided to try something different on a platform that is typically underutilized by B2C brands.


Known for its use among working professionals, KFC created a new profile for the Colonel on LinkedIn to tap into a whole new market of opportunity. With a hint of creativity and humor, KFC remains to be the only brand to leverage a mascot’s likeness on such a popular social media platform.

Lessons Learned from KFC  

These are drastically different approaches to social media and not everyone can pull it off as easily as KFC, but there are a couple of important things to take away here.

The first is that social media is supposed to be social—do what you can to involve your audience as much as possible. This will go a long way to creating a positive perception of your brand and increased engagement.

The second thing to learn from KFC’s previous social media efforts is to use creative thinking as much as possible. Don’t rely on what everyone else is doing and try to think of fresh ways to engage your audience.

2. Taco Bell — Be willing to experiment, never stop moving, understand the future.

There are few brands that should be regarded as the “gold standard” when it comes to social media.

As it happens, Taco Bell is one of those brands.

The biggest thing that can be learned about Taco Bell is that they truly understand their audience, which is why they’re so successful as a fast food brand. If you examine a few of their social media properties (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram), you’ll probably notice that messaging is the same, but the tone is adjusted for each one. What works on Snapchat may not on Facebook, and what may not work on Instagram is a grand slam on Twitter.

taco bell social media

Each platform is unique in its own way, and Taco Bell knows how to talk to their communities on each one. But the biggest thing to learn from Taco Bell is how they’ve embraced the power of Snapchat.

Example 1 — Early Adoption of Snapchat

As each new social platform emerges, there’s a fair number of folks who share a high level of skepticism about how successful they’ll become long-term. With such dubious beginnings as a way for teens to share lewd imagery with one another, Snapchat was no exception and had quite a few critics.

Then as the platform began to grow among high school and college kids, the rest of the world soon caught on to the potential of this exciting messaging platform. 2016 has been huge for Snapchat with millions of daily active users competing with the likes of Facebook and Instagram. But in those early days where brands couldn’t see the value of Snapchat, Taco Bell was one of the few who saw the potential and got in early.

Now, Taco Bell is considered to be one of the top brands on the hottest new social platform. Since they could see the potential of Snapchat, they took full advantage in 2016.

Example 2 — Taco Snapchat Filter

In the weeks leading up to Cinco de Mayo, Taco Bell saw an opportunity to capitalize on something they’d been thinking about for some time. Teaming up directly with Snapchat, Taco Bell created a filter that users could apply and turn their face into a taco.


Image via AdWeek

Creepy nightmares aside, the lens was a massive hit and broke the record for sponsored content on Snapchat. The Taco Bell-themed filter was viewed 224-million times in a single day.

Lessons Learned from Taco Bell

Sure, Taco Bell probably has a much larger marketing budget to experiment and try out things that eventually may not pan out. But that’s the single biggest thing to learn about Taco Bell’s approach to social media.

To understand the nuances of each platform means a deeper understanding of your audience. Adjusting your message to fit the platform is something everyone can do, but more importantly, you should never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. If you never try something new and scary, you just might find yourself always racing to keep up.

3. Pizza Hut — Listening > Broad Messaging

When it comes to pizza, it’s a tough uphill climb to become the top dog. You have to be vigilant, ready to pounce, and execute at a higher rate than your competitors. But there’s one reason in particular that speaks to why Pizza Hut is the top pizza brand on social media.

Brands can get caught up in their own messaging without considering what they’re audience is talking about. What’s worse is when brands make mistakes in their attempt to stay relevant and miss the mark entirely. The best example of such a social media blunder is when DiGiorno’s made light of domestic abuse when trying to leverage a trending hashtag on Twitter.


Image via Flickr

For brands who want to go deeper beyond paid campaigns for awareness, Pizza Hut routinely uses social listening to promote their brand.

Example — Hypixel & Poutine Pizza

Pizza Hut wants to be the pizza of choice that is synonymous with home entertainment. Ideally, if you were ramping up to a night of Netflix viewing, Pizza Hut wants you to consider them the place to get your pizza to go along with your binge session.

The popularity of gaming YouTube channels have exploded in the last year or so, and Pizza Hut saw a perfect opportunity to leverage this fact. Using their team and social listening tools, they were able to pick up on a conversation YouTuber Hypixel was having with his followers on Twitter.

He had asked his followers about french fries on pizza, so Pizza Hut decided to jump in and mention their poutine pizza, complete with french fries. This conversation resulted in 1,000 mentions and driving awareness within a community they wanted to tap into.

Lessons Learned from Pizza Hut

Going beyond mentions of your brand can really help you tap into entirely new markets and opportunities. Again, understanding your audience and what they’re talking about will help you be an authentic part of social media and improve how they feel about your brand.

So don’t just think about your brand.


Having 3 brands in the top 10 quick service restaurants in the world speaks volumes about the people that run these brands. Although these brands under the Yum! Brands family are strictly B2C, there are tons of lessons you can apply to your social media strategy.

All in all, your customer comes first. Know them, understand them, speak their language, they’ll always come back.

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