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Social Media for Food-Related Businesses

Whenever I’m in Manhattan I marvel at the fabulous food trucks. That got me to thinking when I happened to notice one parked on 7th Ave and 18th St. How could I find them again if I wanted to? Kim Ima, food truck operator and owner of The Treats Truck in New York City uses the Internet and social media to let her customers know of her whereabouts on a daily basis. There are a number of ways that a restaurant or small food business owner can also grow their business by using social media.

Twitter presents a great opportunity to post up to 140 characters of information in one “tweet” and distribute it to many with one mouse click. Business users like Kim can enter messages from their computer or mobile phone and have them transmitted to people who have chosen to “follow” them. Users get updates through email or as a text messages to their mobile phone.

Kim provides updates on a weekly basis on her website, but she also uses twitter, and tweets several times every day to let her customers know she’s arrived at a particular location. Presently Kim has 5,967 twitter followers, and when she gets into a traffic jam, which can certainly happen nowadays with holiday gridlock, she just calls her staff and asks, “Can you guys tweet for me? I’m running a few minutes late, stuck in traffic. Cookies on the way.”

Another small take-out business, which also happens to be a food truck, The Cinnamon Snail sells organic gourmet food and uses both twitter and Facebook to connect with customers in Red Bank and Hoboken NJ. They started their Facebook page in February 2010 and since then have 2,273 Facebook fans. Actually, I just liked them myself, so that makes 2,274 and growing. The Cinnamon Snail reports their specials and let’s potential customers know what they’re serving up each week.

You’re probably thinking twitter and Facebook for a food truck seems like a no brainer, but what about using social media for a small restaurant or fast food business? I know, social media tools have been somewhat controversial since some think they’re used to spread information about mundane things, but if used properly these tools provide another form of marketing and they’re completely FREE. No design, printing or distribution charges, and you can see your fan base growing right in front of your eyes.

I looked up a local restaurant on Facebook and they have 765 people who like them, one who also happens to be a friend of mine. The restaurant runs a special promotion for Facebook fans, offering one free entree with the purchase of another. The restaurant also advertises in quite a few other places, including local newspapers and coupon books. But, with traditional advertising it’s not possible to see what other diners have to say about them. The reason this restaurant can run a special promotion on Facebook is because they aren’t paying for the advertising, so the consumer benefits, and the restaurant not only gets free advertising, but referrals from fans right on their page. In fact, fans can also post photographs, videos, comments and shout-outs. That’s a  definite win-win.

Take a look at your competitors and see if they have social media strategies. Then consider some strategies of your own.

Watch for an upcoming video interview with Adam Sobel on how he uses social media for The Cinnamon Snail.

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