In the movie “Chef”, a disgruntled chef gets into a much heated argument via Twitter not even realizing the power of social media engagement. Later in the movie, the chef’s son leverages his father’s new social infamy to communicate the next location where their new food truck will be arriving.
Much to the amazement of the chef himself, the son’s social media prowess results in much fanfare and long lines the moment they arrive in a new town.
This movie showed two key learnings:
- Social media is a powerful tool (which you already knew), and
- Small businesses, like food trucks, can leverage social media engagement to win amidst a competitive market.
How Can Social Media Help Food Trucks Survive and Thrive?
Food trucks are some of the smallest of small businesses, and the competition is often fierce. Food trucks fail at an alarming rate…but not all of them. In fact, some have become wildly successful. Faced with the unique challenges of a mobile business – such as no fixed location or hours – how do some food trucks survive and thrive? For some, the answer is social media.
To find out what successful food trucks are doing right, I searched for the most-talked-about moveable feast makers and loaded five of them into a Rival IQ landscape. Here’s what I found.
5 Tips to Heat Up Your Social Media
Tip #1: Use Multiple Social Media Channels
My first question was: Where can you find food trucks on social media?
The answer: Several channels. Successful trucks are using a variety of channels to stay in touch and engage with their customers.
Not surprisingly for B2C companies, the channels where all the trucks have a presence are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, where they can really show off great photos of food and their trucks!
Tip #2: Build Your Audience and Activity
Presence is one thing, but these trucks are active, too! Not sure when they have time to post as they are driving around, cooking and serving up home cooking, but they are finding a way. The Grilled Cheese Truck (yum!) is leading the way with 138,000 followers across those three social channels, and the most posts. Over a 7 day period, the Grilled Cheese Truck posted 102 times, primarily on Twitter and Facebook. Wow!!
Even the “smallest” of the trucks has over 30,000 followers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which is still impressive.
Tip #3: Post Content that Engages!
In terms of engagement, Coolhaus is killin’ it on instagram. Coolhaus is a gourmet ice cream truck in Los Angeles. I’ll confess that, while I am incredibly curious, I can’t say I’d be eager to try avocado sriracha ice cream. Nope. Not even a little. However, brown butter candied bacon — I’m all in.
I wanted to dig into this engagement a bit more and see what posts are driving this interaction. Unsurprisingly, pictures of food won the day. Chi-lantro BBQ and the Peached Tortilla are also scoring some strong engagement on Instagram.
On Facebook, the engagement winner is the Grilled Cheese Truck – they are clearly focusing on this channel. Beyond engagement, The Grilled Cheese Truck also does a great job working cross channel, including hashtaging Instagram in its Facebook posts. Nice work!
Tip #4: Use Engaging Hashtags
As you can see on the Instagram posts above, Coolhaus is doing a great job using fun and searchable hashtags on Instagram, like #icecream, #yogurt, #pretzels and more! In looking at the top content on Facebook and Twitter, these food trucks continue to do a great job leveraging hashtags.
Too frequently, folks forget to follow hashtag best practices. So, use these food trucks as models for your own social media marketing!
Tip #5: Leverage the Buzz Around Your Company or Market
The buzz surrounding these trucks is incredible. For example, Coolhaus has been featured in dozens of articles from Forbes to the Food Network, and has even made television appearances.
Make sure your social media is extending and leveraging the buzz you or your market receives in other online media or offline activities. Make social media part of your overall integrated marketing, so it all works together to drive awareness and business growth.
Five years ago, The Grilled Cheese Truck was inspired by the 7th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. Today, you can find the trucks dispensing melty goodness in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Texas. Many of them have raked in enough business to open brick-and-mortar restaurants, franchise, or buy a whole fleet of trucks. Not bad for a local micro-business.
I’m not saying social media is the only factor in the success of these food trucks, but it has made a significant impact.
I love food trucks. But the trucks in my area are not big on social media. As a result, they lose my business. If I can’t find them when I’m thinking about it, the moment passes. And even though they have some fantastic food, you won’t find them mentioned on a national level – anywhere.
I’ve seen quite a few good ones fold, and not because of their food.
My advice to them: up your social media engagement, and I WILL come find you. In fact, tweet pictures of drool-worthy foodporn, and I’ll think about it all day. And when I tweet “Hey, where are you today?” Answer me immediately! (not a week later).