Tressie Lieberman, the company's vp/innovation and on-demand - and previously its senior director/digital marketing platforms and social engagement - discussed this topic at Advertising Age's Digital Conference 2015.
"At Taco Bell, we have access to 20 million conversations a year," she reported. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Taco Bell serves up a new social strategy.)
"So we can really listen to our customers through social media, be inspired by them and connect with them to create real relationships."
This "social journey to really understand where our customers are", Lieberman states, commenced approximately three years ago.
And it has influenced various aspects of the brand's strategy, both big and small. As an example, when Taco Bell noticed many customers uploading pictures of their food before dining, it began reflecting this habit in its own marketing images.
"We wanted it to look as if they were taking that picture themselves," said Lieberman.
Another "golden rule", she noted, has involved varying the content it produces on social, helping keep conversations fresh and engaging - just as friends would.
"People don't want to hear about the same things over and over and over again," Lieberman said.
Perhaps the most important consideration underpinning this process, she reported, is one of the hardest for brand custodians schooled in the traditional marketing fundamentals.
"And that is to stop thinking like a corporation. To stop being a marketer. We threw out the 4Ps" - namely, product, price, place and promotion - "and just started going back to basics," she added.
Rather than concocting a "social persona", the Mexican-inspired chain tries to represent its core values - which include principles such as "shake up the ordinary", as well as being a "rebel" and an "explorer".
"I think the first thing was: just be yourself," Lieberman said. "And I think that works. Be yourself."
Data sourced from Warc