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June 19, 2015 Staff

Starting up a Blog or Food Publication to Help your Food Truck Business

Figuring out Social Media Strategies for a food truck business is an ongoing process; we’ve talked a bit about the main ones and considerations when starting out in a Previous Article, including the importance of staying up to date on topics. As time goes on, you’ll always want to figure new ways to keep people interested in staying in touch with your business’s main pages and up to date on changes, promotions, etc. Along with this, doing things to curb other’s to discover and explore the business through the web through unique methods is just as vital, bringing them to your Facebook or Website through some other topic that ties in.

eat3One great way to do this is to start a Blog or Publication section on your main Web Page, or just turn your site into one completely, featuring the articles and stories on the front page and further information and menu delegated to the side. Not only does this increase the attractiveness and depth of exploration to your website for people to run through, writing up and posting a regular stream of articles can notably widen your audience as well as increase traffic on OTHER social media channels.

For instance, every single article/post that one gets up can be immediately linked to show up on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlet you use for advertising. Added with all the other things you SHOULD be getting on here, and it only adds to the amount of things on your page, and thus the number of daily views; the more articles you can get out on a weekly/monthly basis, the more it improves this pattern. Secondly, as you’ll have to write about things other than just your food truck in order to keep it going, articles should be able to attract the attention of those not JUST looking specifically for your truck.

Of course not every Food Truck owner is prepared to just go into starting a full written project, they’ve got enough on their plates as it is, thus doing it successfully can be even more challenging. So when going into this strategy, just keep note of some important points and tips to make sure this strategy runs smoothly.

Topics

What you write about is always going to affect what sort of crowds you attract and how successful it works out. The main thing is to have SOME sort of theme, if you’re discussing other food trucks, restaurants/foodservice, daily life in a business (or business itself) and repairs, or just news in general. There’s no right or wrong in which route you go, so long as you make sure 1: it’s something that YOU want to actually have written about and discussed in the blog. The more you’re interested and vested in it, the more that comes through for the readers and the better quality of posts that are usually generated. And point number 2: Keep it Local. National stories/subjects are great and lead to a wider audience, but almost no one in California is going to just fly over to Florida to try a new food truck no matter how good the post is (you need to get your own reputation up in the area for out-of-towners to seek out). Fit things into what hits the interests of people in their area so they can discover you along with it, or simply reaffirm their interests in you to begin with.

Choose a Site

eat5There’s a chance your website might already be able to support an addition for continuously written articles, in which case all that’s needed is to ensure your posts are properly connected to your other social media sources, and hopefully can branch out from there. Then again you may need to have whoever designed the page change things to allow it, or simply switch the whole thing over to a completely different blog server. These latter can cost extra money, especially considering the likely help one will need from Developers, but you’re already paying for having a website as is, so it’s just a continued cost of that (make sure to apply this towards advertising budget so it fits into monthly costs). Squarespace, WordPress, and Tumblr are but a few of the great sites that provide effect mediums to present your website and publication together. Most of them do offer a Free service as well, but those are purely going to serve the purposes of the blog and are bad places to also act as a business website. Especially considering that one has to use their server name for the site, so people would have to go to wordpress.com/yourtruckname to find you.

Keep it Going

Now that your focus is set and site is up, it’s time to move onto the next step, and that is getting these articles out at a good pace! We’ve already talked about more being better, and it’s true; you never want to stop these, or take a month to write between each. Blogs that wait that long, if not longer, get absolutely no attention. And what’s worse, they end up buried in search engines. If there’s anything you want to drive at, that’s it; in order for people who don’t visit your site to see it, they need to find it randomly on Google or Bing or something, which means at some point you want your articles to be within the first couple pages when someone searches a relevant topic. For this happen, you need a few things. First is patience, it will always take time for this to happen; secondly is getting more and more content out there, which boosts your own site’s imprint on the servers; and finally is actual page views, the more that happen equals the higher your articles are seen as relevant, and the more content you get out equals even MORE page views which increases this effect.

To accomplish this, you’ll want to actually schedule things out, have a goal to get a new post out at certain times; such as every Thursday, or 5-8 every month. Put a goal out and meet it. Just make sure that the posts are spaced out; clumping a lot together at one time will certainly get interest, but followed by a period of silence and your site visits will go back to being dead.

Getting it All Written

At the end of the day, the real challenge is actually getting this all written up and gotten out on a regular basis. How much effort and time needs putting in all depends on what kinds of articles you want up, but it’s no joke that some time needs investing into it, and with how busy you as an owner are it’s understandable that you may be very hard pressed to want to spend your free time in doing this. Which is why often times in this situation you’re going to want some help.

eat4This first means simply talking with your team, family, or any friends you know, see who is interested, willing, and able to write up a few fun posts about local places or whatever other topic you wanted to focus on. Even if there are a few that can do this, likely they might not be able to cover it to the frequency that you’re planning. In which case, another strategy is to look to other local bloggers/writers. Check out your town’s food blogs, see what writers have a nice style (but maybe aren’t so famous/well known yet), and send some messages asking if they’d be willing to help you out with an article every now and then. Plenty will easily jump at the chance to get their name out (make sure they get credit at the end of the article) and might do it for free, and if you can get a few other writers to do this in conjunction then those monthly requirements are met. Note though that there are a few that will only spend their own time to do this if some sort of payment is on the line; you yourself will have to determine if that’s worth it depending on the exact situation and how much they’re asking per post.

Finally, when all is said and done, your lineup of writers setup and getting articles up, the last thing to make SURE happens is that every article is saved as a draft BEFORE going up. As good of a writers others may be, you never want someone else blindly posting something you yourself haven’t looked through and approved. Whether you want to make some tweaks to fonts or just check they aren’t slipping in filth, quality control is always important. Plus this way it’s posted when YOU want it posted, keeping set schedule and all that.

Interview

eat2As a final piece, we sat down with Minnesota Food Scene Foodie Golnaz Yamoutpour, one of the owners of the very successful local Instagram Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS. Having recently added an online publication on with local writers, we decided to ask about her experience and advice for others exploring this unique media facet.

Question: Thanks for meeting with me Golnaz. Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS?

Golnaz: Sure, I lived in Minnesota most of my life…since I was about 5 years old. My family and I immigrated to the states from Iran when I was about 3 years old and settled in Minnesota because we had family here. Shortly after, my parents decided to franchise a restaurant called Cousins Subs in downtown Minneapolis and that is where I spend most of my summers and for at least 5 years or so. I would cashier, help make sandwiches, prep, stock…you name it, I did it! I enjoyed working and of course making money. As I got older, I tended to stay within the food industry and waitressed for about 5 years at an Ember’s and then at a fine dining restaurant in downtown Minneapolis called, Atlas Grill. Looking back, I believe these experiences really propelled me into becoming a Foodie….I just didn’t know it at the time. Meanwhile, in college, after so much back and forth with picking a major I decided to study nutrition…the study of food and how it impacts the human body. So, I guess you can say I was subconsciously preparing myself for Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS…but it wasn’t until I moved to Uptown and traveled the world a bit to finally appreciate food and the culinary art. Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt to be raised on homemade Persian food. Persian food, with its multitude of spices, herbs, and flavors really allowed me to savor food and build a strong palette.

eatEat.Drink.Dish MPLS came about because that was my lifestyle…I would eat, drink, and “dish” with my friends almost on a daily basis at restaurants all over the Twin-Cities. I wanted to share that experience because I knew that many people struggle with the simple question of, “where should we eat tonight?” or “where’s a good spot to eat?” I always got that at work, with friends, with family, even with strangers! Then, one day I saw a New York Times article on the dating scene in Minneapolis and they featured the CC Club and generalized Minneapolis into this hipster genre and that essentially was my catalyst to start Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS.

At first, to be honest, I wanted to call it Eat.Drink.Bitch and become a crass blog section of what 20-somethings REALLY talked about and thought about food and restaurants. But then, my business-side of my mind came into play and thought that if I really wanted to make an impact, support small businesses (like my parents’ business), then I had to lean towards a more positive message and highlight the strengths of each establishment . Thus, I searched high and low for a business partner who understood my mission, shared the same values, and pretty much could think like me…it’s honestly almost like dating. I came across a friend on Facebook that I met thru mutual friends and she had a small Foodie blog and she was very much in the Minneapolis social scene. I messaged her immediately, set up a meeting, and that is how Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS began.

Q: Why did you decide to move onto an online publication? How did the idea come about?

Golnaz: We decided to create an online publication because 1) we wanted to help local up and coming writers get their name out there and 2) because we wanted true Foodies that live in Minneapolis and go to local restaurants be the ones that talk about the food. We didn’t want to outsource, we didn’t want to personally blog, we wanted to support local businesses and also support local writers.

Q: What was the very first thing you had to figure out for this, and what actions/decisions went through afterward?

Golnaz: The first thing we had to figure out was the entry into market. Meaning, is there room for Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS, is there value in it, and will it be successful? So, the first thing we did was create a Twitter account. Within 24 hours, we went from 0 to 50 followers, organically. It is known that once you hit that 50 followers hump, it is rather smoother sailing to 100+. That is exactly what happened to us. We were well received on Twitter by local businesses and patrons that each day for about 3 months straight we exponentially grew and that is what gave us confidence to start Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and of course the website.

Q: What was the second?

Golnaz: The second thing we did was to scope out the local writing scene. Would people write on our website, for free? That was the question we were asking ourselves. And luckily, the answer was yes! With the magic of networking, we were able to recruit and engage 3 writers within the first 3 months of starting Eat.Drink.Dish MPLS.

Q: And the third? Haha, kidding! Why did you go about getting these local writers, and what was the positive effects?

Golnaz: So to keep with the local messaging and vision, we wanted to keep with local writers as well, because they’re the people that live in Minneapolis, they’re the ones that eat here, and they just know everything about Minneapolis and what the scene is like. So they have a better insight on the food, the atmosphere, the people, and they can probably write better than an outsourced people so it doesn’t look weird.

Q: Are there any considerations that need to be made when others are writing articles for you?

eat1Golnaz: The only thing we ask our writers to do is to make sure that when they write about the restaurant or food truck or whatever they’re at, is to definitely highlight the strengths of that place. We definitely don’t want any negative messaging, we’re not food critics I would say, but more like we try to promote the foodie lifestyle where foodies are generally happy people who love food, love to eat it and love to write about it. So foodie writers, we try to tell them to consider the fact that that if they go somewhere and the food isn’t that great, you probably want to either not write about that or talk about something that WAS really good. Like if they had a really good Bloody Mary, or a really good atmosphere or had really great burger, focus on that instead of everything sucked or everything was good EXCEPT for this. So we try to support local businesses instead of hurt them with these articles.

Q: What have been, or do you believe are, the benefits of starting this blog for your business?

Golnaz: We believe that the benefit of having a publication/blog is to… pretty much, where we are right now, we honestly didn’t know where it was going to go. We started with a Twitter account, and then Instagram, which right now is the most popular of our social media platforms. In order to compliment the brand, and also give people who are really interested in the foodie lifestyle and restaurants in Minneapolis, is to have this extra little bonus thing that you can go to on our website, read articles about up-and-coming and new places that our foodies, that we handpicked, foodies that write about and go to these places, and you can actually get a first person perspective of where to go, what to do, what’s the best place to eat, why that foodies who actually know food and love food go there and why YOU should go there. So it’s kind of another compliment and bonus factor to Eat.Drink.Dish. So if people really love our social media, and really follow us on Twitter and subscribe on facebook, definitely read our articles because that definitely puts everything in perspective.

(As the writer/transcriber of this, I myself also suggest Food Truck owners interested to check out some of their articles, see what things they’re actually writing and putting up, it’s rather great and a good resource for quality comparison)

Q: Are there any downsides to it, for you or other businesses (such as food trucks) doing this? What are the main troubles and issues to running this?

Golnaz: The downside of having a publication is that it requires a lot more attention and management than a social media account, because people rarely visit websites these days. Whereas on Instagram, there is a constant feed and you are directly in contact with your followers so there isn’t much direction required for them to like your picture or comment. It kind of just happens as you increase your following and content. A picture is much more stimulating than an article and that is why we try to encourage our writers to take quality pictures to accompany the articles so that we can grab the attention of the reader by both content and image. We are always working towards increasing traffic to our website and keeping that traffic consistent.

Q: From what I remember, you actually had to change web bases to Squarespace to better support and present the new blog and all the writers for this. Why did you choose to do this, and what did this involve?

Golnaz: So we actually had a lot of issues with our previous platform, Wix. And Wix is really good, it’s really attractive in the beginning because it’s very user friendly. However, with our website and idea with the publication we have, we have a lot of pictures, we’re very picture based, and for some reason the format that we had wasn’t really well supported with Wix. The speed was super slow, either desktop or mobile it would just take forever for the articles to load. So we decided to go with Squarespace, mainly because we decided to actually hire some developers to help this time around. And luckily they were all up and coming developers, it was their first freelance job so we got a pretty good deal out of it. However, lessons learned, there was a lot of things that weren’t detailed to us, and now I don’t think they really knew what they were doing as well, it was a lot of learning experiences. At first Squarespace was definitely really responsive, it’s mobile friendly and the speed is much better, the layouts are a bit clearer I guess. But, at the same time, when you want to teach someone how to post or how to run a restaurant on there… it’s very tedious, and that’s kind of another thing now that we’re like ‘oh great, now we have another issue.’, We don’t have a user guide and have to tell everyone how to use it, and the permissions on there for writers, it just became a little more complex than we thought it’d be, so it’s probably not the best format for us. We’re actually, hopefully after this, looking to go to WordPress, we heard it’s the best for publications and blogs.

Q: Is there any last advice you would give to Food Truck Owners looking to start a blog on/for their website?

Golnaz: Definitely, what we’ve learned, is consistency is key and knowing your audience. You always want to be conscience of who you’re marketing towards and who you’re writing to, to keep that messaging consistent. I mean something that people want to read, people don’t want to read novels, short and sweet is kind of our thing. And making sure that you’re always trying to put yourself out there, I think the more true and honest you are in your blogging then the more your personality comes out, it definitely resonates more with people and they start trusting you and then they start following you and start becoming that loyal customer.

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