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March 14, 2015 Staff

Guide to Promoting your Food Truck through Social Media

sm4We never really had to consider social media as part of our business strategies over a decade ago, besides basic advertising on tv and billboards and such. But what operation nowadays isn’t successful without a lively part in at least one of the many online and phone apps that have plagued our societal needs (btw, I’m 25, why is it I hate this stuff so much?). Let alone using it to simply post calendar and event dates/details, locations, etc, our customer base practically demands a constant intake of links, funny quotes, attractive pictures of whatever, and who knows what else just to keep them interested and aware that we exist. A demand that is vital to every Food Truck owner, letting people know you’re out there, and where.

Unless you’ve naturally gotten into the habit of constantly searching and updating through a few of these outlets (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc), which I’m sure a lot reading this probably have and I should stop complaining, adding this new ‘duty’ onto your daily work requirements can seem like a scary and/or annoying thing. Figuring out what to post, keeping up on multiple platforms, developing strategies, and at the end of the day just MANGAGING it all, for a few simple apps on the phone one can understand how it can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

Luckily for you Food Trucks, many of these updates are rather easy; at least half of all one NEEDS to do on Twitter or Facebook is posting where you are every day. Not to mention you’re working with food every day, making new menu items and bent over a cutting board, giving yourself an almost infinite number of perfect opportunities to snap a picture of employees working or colorful dishes to appeal to social media’s eyes. There are still other things to consider, as always, and we’ll go through some of those important things here.

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Different Sources

There are multiple social media tools for us to use, and it’s a good idea to at least keep up on two of them; each of these have rather specific benefits and demographics, big parts of a pie chart that needs others to fill the whole. The main thing is to choose which ones you want to work with and have a notable presence on each; don’t try to overstretch yourself.

Twitter has probably become the biggest and most known of all these, and probably the most demanding. It offers a great way to get out quick thought easy, snap pictures, and offer public replies and connections with other people and businesses, with every action acting as advertisement. But there’s very little business depth to be reached here, and the better strategies require multiple posts, retweeting, and interaction every day.

Facebook certainly doesn’t need the constant updating; if anything this is your alternate (and in the case of many trucks, their sole) Website. Mostly ideal for those die-hard fans really seeking out and curious about your business, this is where one posts all relevant information about yourself in detail. It also offers a notably better source to post about happenings that need much more attention than 140 characters and hashtags.

For those looking to focus on visual advertising, Instagram and Pinterest offer great places to post all your pictures and videos, especially when catering to the younger crowd.

Blogging! Who knew it’d move from lonely teens and 20-somethings with no life (cough, cough) to being an actual business strategy? Loads of businesses are adding little blog sections to their websites, offering up articles on local happenings, the industry, big events and changes with the trucks, etc. This is definitely where one focuses on attention-detailed strategies and customers willing and interested in spending time really getting into your media. Best handled for those businesses who are pretty sure they’re able to get people interested and searching their website by other means first. Foursquare and its sister app Swarm may not be used by you in particular, but it offers great location services, along with that check-in feature which offer yet another great way to expand awareness of where the business is.

There are plenty more options where this comes from, and tons of others in development for the future I’m sure. Which ones you choose to utilize, and how, will depend on what hits key with your city’s demographics, and what marketing strategies you choose to follow from there.

sm5Using, How and Why

Your specific strategy is determined by you, but there are particular general practices one should be aware of, along with some of the great benefits these platforms help one with.

First off, you need to have a Plan; identify your goal, the soul and feeling of your company in one or two sentences (like making your mission statement, but cutting right to the core), and figure out how that is best connected and communicated with social media. Is your truck trying for bright, innovative, regularly experimental and social behaviors that jive best with Twitter and Instagram; or are you looking at a down home, traditional soulfull vending business that’s heavily involved with their customers? In which case a detailed facebook/website approach, dabbling in a quickfire-outlet where one can keep up with customers on the side.

If you’re just not sure one where to get started, what to post when, then go for something Tried and Tested; look at some of the successful trucks around you, don’t be afraid to ask them questions (I’m sure you’ve already started doing this for other local learnings), and draw ideas and inspiration from them. Just make sure not to fall into the trap of Copying; Emulate other trucks as needed, but these strategies need to be developed to work for YOUR truck. Being a copycat will lead to issues; especially if people notice you doing it.

As I mentioned, it’s easy for us food truckers to have plenty of food pictures, so make sure they come into the strategy rather frequently; with our ‘foodie culture’s’ noted addiction to attractive food pictures as if they were porn, your business will definitely benefit from the utilization. Include all your Handles and Names on the Truck, and everywhere else you can; the easier it is for people to find you, the more they’re willing to type you up.

Always work under the idea that your social media actions should rarely focus on YOU unless they have to (stating location, premiering new items and events, etc). Get focus on the customers, try to promote interaction on the media; reply to links and questions, comment on anyone mentioning your truck, some places even set up contests and rewards for certain social media behavior by followers on pinterest, facebook, etc. Also look into and link news and other stories concerning your area and other local food trucks. This industry, usually, survives on the community built between you, the other trucks, and the customers; link that with the rest of your business too.

On this note, can also use the interaction as a way to keep your own Quality Control up, with food and vehicle maintenance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and point out where a customer’s picture or opinion helped you improve the food; show that their voice matters, and they’ll want to talk to you. But the most important thing, across all strategies and platforms, is simply Managing and Monitoring all of this. This stuff needs to be kept up on, posted at a steady pace; if anything one is best managing and scheduling a lot of these out in the future. Which can seem an annoyance and distracting task at first, especially with all the other task that keep coming up during the day, but there are some great tools you can use to do it in a smooth, orderly way.

Managing

Let’s keep it straight; with the advent in social media, and the need for businesses and random people to manage so many feeds, multiple tools have popped up to give us the ability to use all of our needed sources in one place. These apps and sites let us handle and even schedule out every post, tweet, picture, or whatever else we want; a ton of these which have popped up, with little difficulty in finding, so we’re just gonna mention a few noted ones here.

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Definitely look into Truckily, a social media managing app made just FOR Food Trucks, allowing you to manage your social media while also focusing heavily on sharing and updating location. SoLo supposedly offers similar services, coming in at a low cost to provide free advertising as you manage and easily update your location. Hootsuite has been rather popular with keeping track of ALL your Twitter, Facebook, and other accounts, great for those who have multiple of anything, managing your movements there and scheduling tweets well in advance while also showing content from Other people/businesses you’re connected with. Though some prefer using other apps, like Buffer, for the scheduling purposes while monitoring with Hootsuite. Apps like SocialOomph provide other productivity enhancements to increase your social media standing, such as automatically following those who follow you (if one wants to do that). Many of these offer great chances and services to build your social media standing, even finding the ideal time for you to post, like Social Flow which allows us to watch real-time media conversation to predict the best times for publishing.

Simply note, as I found out later in my research, that some of these places charge membership fees towards access to the more advanced functions and assistance towards this end.

Interview and Links

Finishing off this discussion on food trucks with social media, we’ve conducted a short interview with John Helms of Badass Coffee Truck on the subject. Following that is a few articles we found also discuss the topic rather well. Good luck with your own adventures, keep up the postin’!

sm Question: Let’s start out with you. Tell us about yourself and the food truck.

John: MY FAMILY AND I WERE INSPIRED TO OPEN A BAD ASS COFFEE OF HAWAII STORE AFTER BECOMING A FAN OF IT IN PARK CITY, UTAH. THE FOOD TRUCK INDUSTRY WAS TAKING OFF HERE IN LAS VEGAS IN 2012 SO THE IDEA OF TURNING A GOURMET KONA COFFEE BAR INTO A MOBILE STORE CAME NATURALLY TO US. WE KEEP A REGULAR SCHEDULE WHICH CAN BE FOUND ON OUR WEBSITE AND YOU’LL SEE US AT ALL TYPES OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE EVENTS AROUND TOWN.

Q: Now, besides Facebook and Twitter, do you guys use any other forms of Social Media for your business?

John: OUR TARGET MARKET IS THE LARGEST DEMOGRAPHIC ON FACEBOOK SO WE CONCENTRATE MOST OF OUR EFFORTS THERE WITH CROSS-POSTING ON TWITTER AND WE UTILIZE INSTAGRAM AS WELL.

Q: What tools and programs do you use, if any, on social media besides simply posting?

John: WE USE A GREAT APP CALLED PAGEMODO TO HELP US DESIGN COVER PHOTOS AND STYLIZED POSTS THAT LOOK PROFESSIONAL. WE ARE PARTICIPATORS IN SOCIAL MEDIA, WE DON’T JUST POST AND WAIT-WE LIKE TO HAVE REAL CONVERSATIONS WITH OUR CUSTOMERS. AS PART OF THE COMMUNITY, WE ALSO LIKE TO HELP OTHER LOCAL BUSINESS BY SHARING THEIR EVENTS AND POSTS AS WELL.

Q: Are there any particular strategies that you use in facebook/twitter/etc marketing? What other content do you publish and how do you go about it?

John: MOST OF OUR POSTS ARE ORGANIC BUT WE ALSO SCHEDULE POSTS THAT WILL BE RELEVANT THROUGHOUT THE WEEK. OUR POSTS RUN THE GAMUT FROM FUN PHOTOS AND MEMES TO LINKS WITH INFORMATIVE ARTICLES ABOUT COFFEE AND THE INDUSTRY. PAGEMODO AGAIN IS AN EXCELLENT SOURCE OF CONTENT AND POSTS CAN BE SCHEDULED AHEAD SO IF WE ARE BUSY ON THE ROAD, OUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES ARE STILL ACTIVE.  WE’LL DO A BIG PUSH IF WE HAVE A BIG PUBLIC EVENT COMING UP.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the most challenging aspect to proper social media advertising for food trucks?

John: MOST FOOD TRUCKS RUN ON A VERY TIGHT BUDGET AND ADVERTISING IS EXPENSIVE. WE FIND SOCIAL MEDIA TO BE THE BEST WAY TO COMMUNICATE WITH OUR CUSTOMERS AND IDENTIFY POTENTIAL NEW ONES IN AN INEXPENSIVE WAY IN RELATION TO TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING CHANNELS. STILL, IT IS CHALLENGING TO BOTH CONSTANTLY PRODUCE COMPELLING CONTENT AND TO CUT THROUGH ALL THE NOISE TO GET PEOPLES’ ATTENTION.

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Q: Why is it important though?

John: IT’S IMPORTANT BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A FAST PACED COMMUNITY WHERE EVERYTHING IS MOVING AT THE SPEED OF (THE LAS VEGAS) LIGHTS. WE HAVE TO REACH OUR CUSTOMERS WHERE THEY ARE AND THAT IS ONLINE, ON SOCIAL MEDIA. WE SIMPLY CAN’T DEPEND ON TV OR PRINT ADS TO REACH THEM.

Q: What advice and suggestions do you have for new owners when it comes to using social media? Any last things they should be aware of and look into?

John: OUR ADVICE IS TO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER AND TO CREATE RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEM, INTERACT WITH THEM, OTHERWISE THEY WILL JUST SCROLL THROUGH AND PASS YOU BY. DIVERSIFY POSTS AND NETWORKS TO REACH DIFFERENT CROWDS AND DON’T USE DIFFERENT HANDES FOR EACH NETWORK, IT’S TOO DIFFICULT FOR YOUR CUSTOMER TO REMEMBER. WE USE @BADASSCOFFEELV ACROSS THE BOARD.

Food Trucks Share Social Media Secrets – Entrepreneur

4 Social Media Lessons from Trucks – Forbes

20 Social Media Tips for Trucks – Yahoo

More Social Media Sharing Tips for Trucks – Small Biz Trends

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