I live in Chicago, where food trucks are a growing trend, as they are in many large cities across the nation. These mobile, boot-strapped businesses that change locations throughout the day or week, often have few resources beyond the truck itself to gain a following. So how do they do it? The first way, of course, is by serving great or unique food. Without that, they have no chance. The second is a loyal following.
How do you develop a following without a storefront or permanent location? The answer, for most, is using Twitter and other social media outlets. These trucks are building virtual communities, and by extension, their businesses, by fostering networks of Twitter users who follow their tweets and retweet them to friends. Before the trucks even launch, owners tweet about their menus and about the struggles of launching a new business. They start small and build anticipation as the opening date approaches. By the time they open, they not only have a band of followers, but these followers feel a personal connection to the chef, menu and concept.
Once open, the trucks use twitter to communicate where they are, what they’re serving that day and when they run out of items. Customers appreciate knowing in real time if menu items have run out or if the truck is on the move. Twitter also enables trucks to create a community of fans where guests can interact with chefs and each other. Following your local food truck on Twitter is becoming a foodie badge of honor.
As brick-and-mortar restaurants large and small jump into social media, they should examine what alternative businesses are doing right. In this video from Nation’s Restaurant News, McDonald’s director of social media, Rick Wion, talks about how the chain uses Twitter to continuously engage its followers. Guests will follow restaurants that provide useful real-time information such as daily chef specials, wine tasting events and happy hours. Giving guest’s a special insight into the kitchen by tweeting about local farms and products, what’s in season and kitchen tips can also land you followers and bring guests through the door. In turn, following comments about your business on Twitter gives you insight into the guest experience you’re providing and allows you to address concerns. Tweeting is an excellent way to expand your business’ reach beyond four walls, reaching guests when they aren’t in your restaurant and giving them new reasons to visit or return. It enables you to foster a personal connection and a sense of community centered around your business.