A quesadilla or chalupa from Taco Bell probably makes more taste buds tingle than innovation bells go off, but don't be fooled. The popular fast food chain is all about finding new ways to sell and connect with the people who nosh in its lobbies and drive-thrus. Now, as Kate Taylor of Business Insider reports, it's using your penchant for social media to its advantage, giving you deliciously satisfying control over its marketing and food production.

Taco Bell's latest approach

Taco Bell is using social media in a multi-prong way to boost its sales. For example, it

  • Monitors social media accounts for complaints, using those interactions to address staff and improve service
  • Considers what menu items get the most traction on Instagram, essentially using the results as a "popular vote" for what ideas to keep and what to toss in the garbage
  • Held launch parties for its Naked Chicken Chalupa, encouraging hungry attendees to take photos and post them to Instagram
  • Partners with micro-influencers and individuals who have a broad reach on Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube or other accounts, paying them to post pictures and other Taco Bell media

Through these strategies, the chain is able to create a cycle where Taco Bell is constantly sending and receiving product information (images, comments, etc.), keeping customer engagement through the roof.

The scientific genius in Taco Bell's efforts

Speaking strictly from the standpoint of market reach, Taco Bell is right on the money using social media. Consider for a moment, for example, how many users are on popular platforms:

That's a whole lot of people who potentially would be able to see steamy gorditas and party potatoes. Add to that the fact that these social media platforms are most popular with Taco Bell's own target demographic--millennials--and the action gets even pleasantly spicier.

There's also the little fact that, sorry to tell you, business leaders, but people just don't trust you. They do, however, trust people they know. In fact, according to Neilson Global Trust in Advertising report, 92 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. So when Taco Bell gets out of the way and lets social media users share pictures and other media, they bypass that trust barrier and make it more likely that those seeing the posts will give the food a try. And as Taylor points out, that's especially critical when Taco Bell is trying to introduce items that might otherwise be seen as a little over the top.

And here's what's maybe the coolest part of Taco Bell's approach. Your brain uses information from all of your senses to learn and remember. But it doesn't process all types of data the same way. A University of Iowa study showed that auditory memory lags far behind tactile and visual memory. And experts theorize that pictures outperform verbal or written information for memory in part because images are more concrete. Marketers have recognized the tendency for pictures to be easier to remember (the so-called picture superiority effect) for years. That's why infographics are so incredibly popular and effective. Just by choosing photos as its primary marketing vehicle, Taco Bell's upping the odds the idea of those products will stick in your noodle.

Obviously, Taco Bell can't use social media for everything. But at a time when there are dozens of choices about where to fill your belly, the only box it's apparently worried about is the one employees stuff your family-sized order of burritos in. Other businesses, take note.