Chipotle Is Immersing Itself In Social Media To Connect With Gen Z

In 2006, Facebook – once a site for college and university students to connect across campuses – loosened its membership guidelines, allowing folks outside of the higher education ecosystem to join, recounts The Payments Associations. Within the year, the site had accrued 50 million members, an audience that was bound to make brands and marketers salivate. Facebook Ads soon followed, heralding the beginning of social media marketing, a new chapter in connecting with consumers that allows brands to target with precision and get real-time data on the performance of their campaigns.

To succeed in the saturated realm of social media, food brands have been adapting their marketing tactics. Burrito titan Chipotle could be viewed as one of the more astute players of the game. It was the first food brand on TikTok to reach 1 million followers. Candace Beck, Chipotle's director of social and influencer, told QSR Magazine that it was a result of meeting fans where they are with content tailored to various platforms. "We saw incredible potential with being an early mover on TikTok and tapping into the Gen Z audience."

Now, Chipotle is emerging as an early adopter on a social media platform that has experienced meteoric growth during the pandemic, but one that is decidedly less brand-friendly.

Understanding each platform

BeReal, a photo-sharing social media network, launched in 2019, and, according to Hootsuite, it is sort of an anti-Instagram." The platform allows users to connect with friends and share photos like its competitor, but the way it goes about it is vastly different. BeReal prompts users to upload a single, unfiltered photo per day. Rather than offering a curated take on a user's life, the site aims to capture candid, human moments that speak of the person behind the account. And, for advertisers and brands, BeReal – for now, at least – is worlds apart from other platforms in that it offers no form of advertising or analytics.

All the same, Chipotle has jumped on BeReal with zeal. National Restaurant News reports that the chain used the platform to connect with fans in October of 2022, launching a promotion that offered opportunities to win a free burrito if fans posted their BeReal photo in a Halloween costume inside one of its stores.

Chipotle has also locked on to the popularity of social media stars. Across Instagram and TikTok, notes PR Week, the brand has made content with such disparate stars as "Traffic Cone Sax Man," AKA Wenzl McGowen, and viral sensation Tariq, whose love of corn has made him a red hot commodity. Speaking with National Restaurant News, Chipotle director of social Candice Beck emphasized the importance of understanding different social media environments: "Being immersed in each platform is critical to delivering a successful activation that resonates."