Make Your Citizen Influencers The Stars of Your Social Media Party

Let’s be honest, getting any traction on social media can feel like pushing a barrel of molasses up a sand dune in a blizzard. The best way for a brand to make an impact is working with your citizen influencers. Those who care the most and shout the loudest.

Take Taco Bell, for example. In 2012 they had an 8% increase in sales, compared to McDonald’s 1.8% decrease. Between Facebook and Twitter they currently have an impressive 12 million fans.

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In March 2014 they were about to launch a new breakfast menu. It was time to get their army of fans excited about this.

So out of 12 million fans they picked 1000 citizen influencers, identified thanks to follower numbers, Klout scores, jobs, and how much they already shouted about Taco Bell online. They sent these super fans “breakfast phones” and told them to await instructions. Like sleeper agents, across seven US cities, these super fans were poised to strike once Taco Bell HQ sent the word.

On the day the new menu was launched they activated these citizen influencers, rapidly calling and texting them to engage on Twitter and Instagram with photos, videos, memes, musicals, haikus and records of crazy challenges. One super fan, a staff writer at The Wire, Adam Chandler, was pretty excited about all this:

“I immediately plugged in my breakfast phone, and while it charged, I imagined all the noble missions I’d run for God and Crunchwrap. Put a dead fish on Eric Schlosser’s car? Consider it done. Fake a seizure at a Mickey D’s during prime Egg McMuffin hour? Just get me some Pop Rocks.”

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The campaign was a huge success, of course.

How did Taco Bell unleash an army of eager citizen influencers?

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1. A Narrow Field of Operation

All marketing tactics are how brands do battle for their customers attention and money. With 12 million to chose from, Taco Bell could have unleashed an army of 10,000 or 100,000 super excited citizen influencers, but they kept a narrow focus. Only 1000 people in 7 cities. The key takeaway is who those 1000 people were. Only dedicated fans and those who had a strongly amplified reach made the cut. They were selective with who they hand picked.

Most brands with over 1 million names in their CRM’s or 1 million fans on social media could launch the same strategy – you will have a similar group of dedicated influencers. You just have to find them, which social media listening tools make a whole lot easier.

2. Be Creative, Be Brave: The Odds Are In Your Favor

How did Katniss Everdeen capture the public’s attention in The Hunger Games?

She shot an arrow through the mouth of a roast pig, surrounded by Gamekeepers. A magnificent flammable dress and a heartwarming love story also helped. She was bold, brave and creative. The bold and the brave will always get noticed.

This campaign was in itself a bold act of creativity on the part of Taco Bell. Most menus aren’t unveiled with so much hype. People notice when a brand does the unexpected. So don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either internally or working with an agency; the returns always outweigh the rewards.

3. Stop Being a Brand

Taco Bell made a human connection with their most valuable citizen influencers. The result was over one billion social impressions around the breakfast menu. The staff who ran the campaign wasn’t Taco Bell corporate folks, they were friends, calling their 1000 other friends to do some cool whacky stuff together. The proof is in the Burrito.

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Want to energize your fans? Make real connections? Watch this video of how to turn your supporters into an army of citizen influencers. Here’s the awesome FREE action kit, from ourselves at, in partnership with Strength in Members.

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