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Taco Bell: Can We Please Stop With All of the Social Media Silliness?

What is it with people these days doing stupid things then posting them on social media sites? Do we ever learn? Mashable posted an article about this yesterday:

The genius in that picture is an unnamed employee from Taco Bell. The reason why this is stupid is rather self-explanatory.

I don’t understand it. This happens way more often than it should and there is zero reason for that. Social media is a great tool and resource…but it makes everything dumb so much more visible. And that’s a real shame.

My problem with this is that a lesson we all have been at least told, not necessarily one we’ve learned, is that we will all make mistakes, and sometimes we should take a step back and make sure we are making a good decision before doing something. In this situation there is literally nothing that screams “This is a great idea and will provide me with some sort of benefit.” So why do it?

What was he thinking?

“Guys, GUYS! This is going to be hilarious. I’m going to take a picture of me licking this stack of tacos. It’s going to be LEGENDARY.”

That’s one. The other could be that this was just a fun “prank” with some friends of his that he never expected to get posted anywhere. I’ve been there. But really, what do you expect to happen? Of course it’s going to be seen, and of course once it’s seen it will become an issue. Things like this are one of the few hot buttons in social media that almost always seem to get found and spread around like wildfire. It’s simple, you’ve heard the other stories, so don’t make this mistake yourself.

What’s Taco Bell thinking?

They really only have one course of action. Even if these shells were never going to be served to customers, and no harm would have come to anyone, Taco Bell has to fire this employee. Or at least say that they did. This is something that tarnishes their brand (because it’s so high-class as is, right?) and they have to put out the fires in whatever way works best.

Lessons need to be learned

Taco Bell has only one course of action. This employee had many, at first. He chose the wrong one. The bragging rights of being “oh so funny” by doing something gross (would you brag about this?) are certainly not worth your job. This employee will have a good time telling potential employers about his exploits here some point down the road…hopefully he’ll have learned his lesson.

Social media is a delicate space. It isn’t a place where you can just post anything. There are things you shouldn’t post, and things you just shouldn’t do. This is one of them. We all see people make mistakes. There’s usually an honest mistake behind what happens (accidentally posting from a business Twitter account instead of a personal one, for example) and that happens. But sometimes it isn’t an honest mistake, just a dumb one with little thought behind it.

This social silliness needs to stop. We’ve all grown up learning that we’ll deal with the consequences of our actions, yet some of us still decide to test that. What will it take to teach that lesson successfully?

Join The Conversation

  • Warren Whitlock's picture
    Jun 7 Posted 2 years ago Warren Whitlock

    thanks for making my point.

    social media is showing real people doing 

    no need to stop anything

  • milhouse4588's picture
    Jun 7 Posted 2 years ago milhouse4588

    Once again, this has nothing to do with Taco Bell as a company. Beyond educating their employees to the best of their ability, companies can't control the younger, less responsible employees.

    I wrote the article not directed at Taco Bell or other companies, but at the individuals who do this for attention.

    Kids will ALWAYS be doing stupid things. I am not debating that with you because I completely agree. I'm still young (25) and I have done plenty of stupid things (not really on this level, however).

    What isn't debatable is the "encouragement" that social media channels provide for kids who want this attention. It acts as a catalyst that increases the need to share things like this in order to gain notoriety. I'm not saying that social media is the culprit of this. I'm saying that social media makes the problem bigger, and that kids need to stop doing these things for attention.

    Kids who are willing to do this now have more of a reason to do it, and that's because of social media.

  • Warren Whitlock's picture
    Jun 7 Posted 2 years ago Warren Whitlock

    Sorry to burst your bubble.. But people doing silly things was not invented before the Internet. In fast food, this tomfoolery is as old as fast food. 

    The headline "Can we stop..." is calling for an end to things that no company can control. They never could. The illusion that something kept out of the media is not happening is precisely why I wrote the comment. Can't be done.

    Sure.. we're seeing more silly behaviour online lately. There's no going back. Both the beviours and sharing are here to stay. 

    There are things a company can do. That's an HR, training and management issue.

  • milhouse4588's picture
    Jun 7 Posted 2 years ago milhouse4588

    I definitely see the irony in what you're saying now. I didn't make that connection at all! Funny observation, it went straight over my head.

  • Jun 7 Posted 2 years ago Rick Wion

    SMT generally has some really great articles. I am a daily reader...I was just pointing out the irony that attention seekers are a apparently problem...unless you are talking about SEO attention seeking. 

  • milhouse4588's picture
    Jun 7 Posted 2 years ago milhouse4588

    The "they" is the editors of SMT, yes. But I don't really understand the negative conotation of how you call them "attention seekers." Anyone who runs an online business understands that SEO is important and they are trying to improve the SEO as well.

    In my case it altered the direction of the post from the kid (and younger kids in general) to Taco Bell which was a mistake.

    But if you're on here to find ways to comment against SMT, why be here? I didn't write my post for that.

  • Jun 6 Posted 2 years ago Rick Wion

    Who is the "they" in that "they added Taco Bell to the title"?

    You must be referring to the attention seeking editors of Social Media Today who in adding Taco Bell to the title are hoping a snappier title will gain more traction on Twitter and eyeballs overall, right? 


  • milhouse4588's picture
    Jun 6 Posted 2 years ago milhouse4588

    Truth is, they added the "Taco Bell:" to the title. My post isn't directed at the company (they actually do a good job on social), but just at the individual. I'm using him as an example for the general stupidity of how people act on social media.

    In regards to how it's changed in the age of social media:

    Social media creates an outlet for individuals to showcase themselves as much as they'd like, completely unfiltered. For attention-seekers it's bad news because they will do what it takes to get a laugh or two from their friends. Whether or not that was the intention of the Taco Bell kid (I don't think I'm reaching too far in assuming it might have been a big factor), the point is social media actually encourages this type of behavior.

    What would be the point of licking the tacos before there was an outlet like social media or even mobile phones? You couldn't take a picture of it, and posting it wasn't possible previoiusly. It would just be a story that wouldn't garner any attention.

    Social media has changed this type of behavior a LOT, that isn't really debatable. Yes, kids have done stupid things forever, but not this much, this publicly, or with these intentions.

  • Warren Whitlock's picture
    Jun 6 Posted 2 years ago Warren Whitlock

    You're calling on Taco Bell to stop what exactly?

    I think we can all agree that licklng food intended to be served is unacceptable and that young employees do stupid things that get them fired. 

    How has that changed in the age of social media?

    This looks more like an attempt by bloggers to get attention than any real issue worthy of professional discussion. .. unless we're on a health forum or HR group.

  • milhouse4588's picture
    Jun 5 Posted 2 years ago milhouse4588


    It's a bit crazy that companies don't have these discussions with employees on a regular basis, and during training for new hires. Although, I do have a feeling there's probably a paragraph or two somewhere in the "employee handbook" that talks about social media.

    It once again goes back to the individual putting his pride, ego, and sense of self-worth above his job for the sake of a couple laughs.

  • ubersocialmedia's picture
    Jun 5 Posted 2 years ago ubersocialmedia

    Good article and this demonstrates clearly why businesses, especially big global brands, need to set behavioural guidelines when it comes to employees using social media in connection with, or representing their brand.

  • PervaraKapadia's picture
    Jun 4 Posted 2 years ago PervaraKapadia

    Social Media is no doubt a sensitive area. 

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