Three Reasons Why Social Media is Crucial for Food Trucks

By: Sarah De Heer

The Lime Truck competes during taping Saturday, April 23, 2011, in Las Vegas as seen Food Network, The Great Food Truck Race Season 2.

Photo by: Isaac Brekken ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P

Isaac Brekken, 2011, Television Food Network, G.P

It's no surprise that social media and food trucks go together. We've known that for quite some time now. However, the reasons why the two are so dynamic are evolving as more social platforms become available and as the food truck movement continues to grow.

A recent SXSW Interactive panel brought together Food Network's general manager of online brands, Bob Madden, and recent cast members from The Great Food Truck Race to speak on this topic. Daniel Shemtob from The Lime Truck, James DiSabatino from Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Stephanie Morgan from Seabirds sat down for an hour to discuss how they go beyond using Twitter and Facebook on a day-to-day basis.

So why is social media so important to the food truck industry? Each panelist shared their reasons:

1. To tell people where your truck is located.

2. To show the transparency of the business.

3. To gain the consumer's trust.

The number one reason is obvious. But as Stephanie and James went into depth about showing the transparency of their businesses, the light bulb went on: everyone enjoys a behind-the-scenes look at what they indulge in, whether it is a favorite TV show, movie or restaurant/food truck. Stephanie posts photos on Facebook from the farms where she shops for produce, her crew and the customers she interacts with on a daily basis. James took his transparency one step further by documenting the start-up of his food truck from day one with trials and tribulations he faced, potential logos and more.

What's the most powerful social media platform for food trucks? That depends on the food truck and the location. For Daniel, it wasn't Facebook or Twitter. "Yelp is the most powerful tool I use. The catering part of my business continues to be the most successful and profitable feature for me. I read reviews, see the stars awarded or not awarded and I respond to them." This helps gain consumers' trust and build the brand — by starting a dialogue you can be honest with your customers and they can be honest with you.

Other takeaways from the panel:

1. Build loyalty with your customers by starting the conversation with them before they do.

2. Get to know your consumer and try to remember their name: "Everyone wants to be a regular," said Stephanie.

3. Don't get involved in religion or politics on your social platforms.

4. Add personal messages on Facebook and Twitter: "Everyone wants to get a shout-out from a business and get recognized," said James.

5. Find new ways to engage with them, whether it is a new platform like Pinterest or improving on existing ones.

After the panel was over, I asked Bob for some of his favorite takeaways from the session: "I was the most impressed by how they are building a brand, a following and a customer base by letting people behind the curtain of their business through social media. They believe in what they're doing so much that want to share every detail with their fans. The authenticity and passion they have for what they're doing make social media the perfect tool for them."

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