by Art Piccio . June 17th, 2014
According to Los Angeles-based think-tank IBISWorld, the street-food business , which includes food trucks and smaller food carts – is a $1 billion industry that saw 8.4 percent growth rate from 2007 to 2012. At $40,000 to $120,000 USD for a custom-built, road-ready food truck, it simply wasn’t as feasible to set up food trucks in less densely populated cities before the mobile social media boom.
Add the operating costs and the lack of a simple, quick way to advertise their routes and market their brands, and a full-size food truck was an uncertain and often expensive proposition. Thanks to social media and smartphones, food truck entreps can now follow the market… and vice-versa.
Now it seems that food trucks are everywhere, and not all of them are successful. In fact, growth has slowed considerably since 2013. Tweeting your location isn’t enough anymore. Interestingly enough, innovation in social media seems to moving at slower pace than innovation in the food itself and nearly any somewhat densely populated area will have at least a few trucks, trying to earn your twitter following.
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Here’s 5 things we guarantee ALL successful food trucks do on social media.
Interesting businesses will forever have a special place in the hearts and minds of the general public. It helps if you’re able to tell a story about your company that could hold your customers’ attention. It doesn’t even have to be exactly true. No one really cares about the absolute truth of who started your business. No one really thinks a clown named Ronald McDonald just up and went making fries and burgers.
It’s more important to hook your customer and tell them something they haven’t read on other food truck social media pages.
Social media isn’t just a way to give followers your daily routes. Social media platforms also function as a virtual contact center, helping your customers get in touch with you – albeit very publicly. You will eventually get some complaints and bad reviews. A single one of these can totally derail your business. If you let it.
Complaints are a way to build rapport and address customer concerns. A well-handled complaint may very well be the thing that earns you a loyal customer, or even a brand evangelist.
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While this isn’t just about social media, it’s important to realize one major point that causes so many food trucks to fold. CRM also involves anticipating and gathering customer experiences –and fixing them. Preferably before problems occur.
Slow service has no place in food trucks. People are probably on their feet, and many probably want to get out of there as soon as they can. If you have process bottlenecks that slow down service – or god forbid – rude service people – there’s very little social media or any amount of spin can do for you.
Engagement on social media isn’t just a way of understanding what your customers want, it can be way to flesh out your branding and help you make a real connection with customers.
While simply posting your scheduled routes and the day’s specials might be enough to get you all the customers you really need, a little effort can increase the multiplier effect social media platforms can have for your business. Even a simple question about what people are doing on a Saturday night can provide a way of helping your customers connect better with your brand.
Wait, didn’t we just say you should engage your customers? We did, and you should. But don’t fall over yourself doing it. While your customers can provide you plenty of valuable feedback, the only one who knows what your brand is about is you.
Customers will never get to see the big picture from your food truck’s perspectives. This means you shouldn’t change your routes or menus only because you got a few tweets telling you they’d be appreciated.
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Chances are, you don’t need to be active on more than 3 social media sites. It’s usually just better to stick with what works and to develop your brand there. Derelict social media sites with hardly any activity won’t speak very well of your brand when someone does find them.
How you serve and plate your offers is highly critical for when your customers inevitably take pictures to share on their personal social media networks. Food should not only be appetizing, but ideally interesting to look at as well. You can’t really control how great the pictures turn out, but if there are distinctive elements to how you serve the food, it can add to your offer’s overall appeal.
Some of those elements (napkins, plates, place mats, etc) are also places you could stick a logo, further helping your brand’s reach. We’ve posted several articles underlining the importance of your logos to any business.
A food truck however, has to take this a step further, given the cultural shift in the past generation where taking photos of food and everything else barely interesting has become the norm.
What other productivity and social media ideas can you share? Comment below!
Photo credits: mista_carrot via photopin cc, RomanK Photography via photopin cc ,EJP Photo via photopin cc, Greg Lilly Photos via photopin cc,Scott Beale via photopin cc, Rut
Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.