Driven to Feed: Why Food Trucks Learned to Use Social Media
June 14th, 2012 by
You may have been told at one point or another that it’s a bad idea to go to the grocery store hungry. There’s another hunger hazard to watch out for that’s sprung up more recently: the Internet. More specifically, the major offenders are Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, Pintrest, and a variety of other social networking sites that constitute the delightful temptations of food truck social media. You won’t be in any danger of impulse-buying that Jimmy Fallon flavor of Ben & Jerry’s (which is quite good, in my ice cream connoisseur’s opinion), but a very real enemy of your hunger lurks in various social networking feeds.
Imagine this scenario: you were going about your afternoon not thinking about BBQ beef sliders at all until, out of nowhere, there’s a picture of one right before your very eyes. And wait, the exact geographic point where you could acquire this small sandwich at this very moment in time is there, too. You can have a slider just like the one on the screen in a matter of minutes! The secret is out that street food vendors and pop-up restaurants thrive on this strategy to interact with, and subsequently make friends, fans, and (most importantly) patrons out of their followers.
According to these Portland food truck proprietors, Twitter drives a remarkable 80% of their business. This is significantly higher than the amount of growth many other types of businesses can attribute to a social media outlet alone. For food trucks especially, social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are uniquely suited to the sort of outreach that drives customers their way. Tweeting locations, posting pictures of daily specials, and receiving feedback are invaluable methods of getting and keeping customers coming to you day after day. Even stationary restaurants have caught up to the marketing strategy employed by food trucks and mobile eateries, tweeting specials and forming customer relationships before people even walk through their doors.
Unfortunately it’s not all low-overhead and roses for trucks using social media to attract attention. The Sun Times reports that law enforcement in the city of Chicago — a city where food trucks have recently proliferated and gained popularity — has used social media against food truck owners by monitoring their Tweets and Facebook posts in order to intercept the roving food sellers and issue citations for violating strict laws dictating how close to an existing restaurant a mobile food establishment can set up shop. Vendors must tweet and post with caution, or face being charged with heinous crimes such as “premeditated selling of a cupcake…”
As in many arenas in life, with risk often comes a satisfying reward. You’ve been warned: risk checking your sites hungry and you may end up sitting on a street corner with a mouthful of Brazilian BBQ, not even knowing how you got there. All it often takes is one Instagram of a skewer and the food truck has got you in its crosshairs. Enjoy it, target market. Enjoy your dinner.