The Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) recently reported that 139.3 million unique U.S. consumers are connected to at least one restaurant brand on social media, according to fourth quarter 2012 data.

The data also revealed new Top 250 Brand Rankings, with McDonald's grabbing the No. 1 spot from Starbucks, which has been at the top of the social influencer list for the past two years.

McDonald's jump from No. 7 to No. 1 can be attributed to a rise in consumer sentiment, as well as the growth of the brand's audience on Twitter and Facebook, which tripled that of Starbucks in Q4.

"The connection of the social consumer to restaurants has reached a tipping point, and the industry is now poised for what I believe is a new era for restaurants," said Paul Barron, founder of DigitalCoCo, a digital branding agency. "The future holds a new direction in profits and connectivity for the brands and operators who understand that this is an opportunity to differentiate themselves."

The RSMI, founded by DigitalCoCo, currently tracks more than 4,700 brands, 42 million U.S. consumers, and 60,000 restaurant and hospitality terms across 180,983 locations.

Read more about social media trends.

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