How to Run a Food Truck 20: Improve Your Social Media Outreach

It’s time to continue onward with Unit 5 of the “How to Run a Food Truck” series! Today, we bring you more marketing strategies for advanced food truck owners with an all-new lesson on connecting with fans through social media.

Most of you probably already have a pretty good idea of what type of content you should be posting on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, so today’s lesson will focus on strategies you can use to manage your social media platforms more effectively and on some brand new ways to improve the content you’re sharing. If for any reason you haven’t gotten started on Facebook and Twitter yet, be sure to check out this post from the “How to Start a Food Truck” series for an introduction to the platforms and for a guide to what kinds of posts work best for food truck owners.

Ready to make your social media outreach work better for you? Then let’s get started by looking at what you should be doing with Facebook and Twitter on a daily and weekly basis below!

Streamlined Social Media Logistics for Food Truck Owners

It’s natural to spend a lot of time on your Facebook and Twitter pages when you’re first getting started because developing a strong social media presence is an incredibly important step for new food truck owners. However, as your business progresses and you start finding yourself with less and less free time each week, you need to step back and examine how much time and effort you’re investing in running your social media pages—and how much value you’re really getting in return.

What Does Social Media Do for Your Business?

Famous FoodTruckrs like Kogi and Streetza Pizza are well known for the way that they used Twitter to popularize their businesses, and their successes are a big part of the reason that social media and food trucks go together just like PB&J today. However, in an age where there are more and more food trucks in cities all across the country, and your fans can often find a great food truck lunch just by heading to popular spots around town, social media isn’t necessarily the most effective way to drum up business for your truck. It’s still an essential tool, and it’s one that we absolutely recommend using regularly, but there could be an upper limit to how much business it can bring to your truck.

With that in mind, we recommend first trying to figure out how social media is working for your truck. You can do this in a number of ways: by tracking your social media metrics, measuring customer engagement through social media promotions or loyalty programs, or by surveying your customers to find out how much your social media pages influence whether or not they visit your truck.

Try to find the answers to questions like:

  • Do customers regularly check your Twitter feed to find out where you’ll be during their lunch hours?
  • Are they more likely to visit whichever truck or restaurant happens to post something on Facebook right around the time they’re getting hungry?
  • Do they think about and choose to visit your truck entirely independent of social media (such as only visiting when they happen across your truck in person or visiting when they know you’ll be at an event)?

Getting a read on these kinds of questions will help you figure out how important social media is to your business—and what kind of potential your social media platforms have for growth and to continue bringing more fans to your truck.

How Much Time Should You Spend on Social Media?

Once you have a better understanding of the role that Facebook and Twitter play in your food truck’s success, you can begin to evaluate how much time you should really be spending on the platforms. In order to get a better sense of what social media management really entails, let’s start out by looking at what tasks you need to complete each week:

  • Write posts, take photos, and find links to share.
  • Schedule posts to be published throughout the week using a tool like Facebook’s Pages Manager App, Hootsuite, or Buffer.
  • Reply to fans who have sent you messages, followed you, shared/retweeted one of your posts, or commented on one of your pages.
  • Browse what other people are posting and start conversations with fans, food trucks, or other organizations.
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That might sound like a lot, but truthfully, none of those tasks need to take up too much of your time unless you have a massive social media following (and if you do, you should probably consider hiring a dedicated social media manager). In general, we think that the average food truck owner should be able to effectively manage his or her social media platforms in less than 30 minutes each day—or in a combined total of 2-3 hours each week—by batching these tasks.

For instance, instead of spending 20 minutes every morning trying to come up with interesting things to post for the day, spend one block of 45 minutes on Sunday afternoon coming up with enough posts to last for the entire next week. It’s much faster to work on this task at all once—and you’ll also post better, fresher content when you can see the whole week’s worth of posts all at once and avoid duplicate messages.

As for interacting with new fans and replying to people who have sent you messages or left comments on your page, you can also batch this work into a single block of time in the morning before you get started, on your lunch break, or when your truck has closed up shop for the day. Of course, you should still monitor your social media pages for important comments throughout the day and respond to customers as quickly as possible—but batching outreach and responses to non-essential inquiries will free up your time and make it easier to focus on providing the best service possible to your customers.

Naturally, there are tons of other strategies and tools you can implement to manage your social media pages more efficiently. Be sure to also sign up for our email newsletter in order to receive your free copy of the FoodTruckr e-book, “6 Free Social Media Tools to Get People Talking About Your Food Truck,” and to learn more about some of our favorite social media management systems.

Taking Your Posts to the Next Level

Once you’ve set up a more efficient social media management system, it’s time to start focusing in on improving the content of your posts and reaching more new fans than ever before. Read on to learn about the four next-level social media tips you can use to make your Facebook and Twitter posts more engaging.

1. Add More Photos

We’ve written before about how important it is to post photos of your food on your website and social media pages—but honestly, the more photos you can post of anything related to your truck, the better. When a fan is scrolling through his or her Facebook or Twitter feed, a post that includes a photo will always be more eye-catching than a plain old text update. Photos encourage fans to stop and actually look at your posts, which means that more people will see the content you send out and more people will be interested in visiting your truck.

Food photos will always be our favorite thing for food trucks to post on social media, but there are tons of other ways you can create eye-catching Facebook and Twitter updates with a simple click of your phone’s camera button. Here are a few new things you can post pictures of on social media:

  • You and your team smiling or doing goofy things in the kitchen.
  • A line of hungry fans or a favorite customer smiling with his or her order.
  • A notable landmark or the street signs of the intersection you’re currently parked at.
  • Ingredients being prepped for the day.
  • The inside of your truck where all the magic happens.
  • Promotional merchandise or new fliers you’ve just printed to advertise an upcoming gig.
  • Some happy clients at a catering gig.
  • Your truck fueling up at the gas station.
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FoodTruckr ProTip: You don’t have to be a professional photographer or have a fancy camera to get high-quality photos to share on your Facebook and Twitter feeds—you just need to know a few editing tricks that can take your images from boring to BRAVO! Watch this video from our friends at the San Diego Food Trucks association to learn how to quickly and easily edit your photos using PicMonkey.

2. Find Conversational Things to Share

In addition to sharing fun photos and updates on everything that’s going on around your truck, it’s also a great idea to create some posts that are purely conversational. Your posts don’t always have to relate directly to your truck—sometimes they can be as silly or random as the things you would post on your personal social media pages.

Of course, there’s a trick to doing this—conversational posts are intended to entertain your audience, and so they need to be interesting or humorous in some way. Your food truck fans don’t want to read an account of your latest visit to the vet or a play-by-play of all the exciting happenings at the DMV. However, they might be interested in an update where you share a short story of the embarrassing thing you just did or ask a witty question related to an ongoing debate you and your best friend are having (particularly if you can drum up a lively discussion on your page).

FoodTruckr ProTip: As a rule, we recommend limiting these types of posts so that they don’t make up any more than 10-15% of the overall content you’re sharing (so if you post 2-3 times per day, you should have about 1-3 conversational posts per week). Restraining content that is purely conversational helps ensure that you’re keeping your truck’s page focused and relevant to your fans while also still allowing them to get to know you on a more personal level.

3. Run Contests

This next tip for making your Facebook and Twitter accounts more engaging is one that’s sure to attract fans and to dramatically increase participation on your pages, and it’s one of our favorites. That’s right—we’re talking about contests.

Contests are fun for your customers, sure—but more importantly, they have the potential to be a big payoff for you. Whether you’re offering free meals to a dozen fans or a year of free lunches to one lucky winner, giveaways draw interest and attention to your page. You’ll see current fans interacting more with your page (by liking your posts, leaving comments, or sharing updates) and you’re also likely to accumulate a number of new followers who are interested in what you have to offer. For a small investment (the cost of whatever prizes you’re giving away and the time it takes you to run the contest), you can increase traffic to your social media pages, get more new fans and followers, and remind current customers about all the awesome things your truck has to offer.

FoodTruckr ProTip: Before you begin running a Facebook or Twitter contest, make sure to carefully review the rules and restrictions associated with social media giveaways and talk with your lawyer to make sure you’re doing everything correctly. There are a number of requirements you’ll need to adhere to, and it’s essential to make sure you’re sticking to the rules. Fortunately, once you’ve run one contest and learned what you generally need to be doing, it becomes much easier and faster to replicate your plans and run more successful promotions in the future.

4. Tag People and Trucks

Our final advanced social media trick is one that’s deceptively simple—tagging other pages or profiles in your social media posts and comments. Tagging someone isn’t very complicated, but it’s something that most Facebook users (and many Twitter users) fail to do regularly and effectively.

Let’s start with a quick primer on how to tag someone:

  • To tag a person on Facebook, begin typing their name (using a capitalized first initial). A dropdown menu will appear and you can select the user you wish to tag. If you’re trying to tag a page, simply type an @ symbol before the page’s name, and a list of potential pages to tag will appear.
  • The process to tag someone on Twitter is similar—use the @ symbol and then type the user’s profile name.
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Voila! After you’ve tagged a person or page, their profile name will appear as a link in your post, which allows your readers to visit their page and see who you’re talking about. Most importantly, however, the person or business you tagged will receive a notification of your post. They’ll then have the opportunity to like or favorite your post, share or retweet it, or comment back to you. Depending upon how and when you tag people, you can end up getting your posts shared and retweeted more frequently and also build goodwill with the people and businesses you’re interacting with online.

Here are a few instances when you should consider tagging a person or business in your post:

  • Tag the page for a festival your truck will be attending and talk about how excited you are for the event.
  • Tag other food trucks who will be at the food truck park with you this weekend.
  • Tag some of the local businesses you park near during your daily lunch rush.
  • Tag a fan who celebrated his or her birthday at your truck.
  • Tag a regular customer who you especially love chatting with.
  • Tag the supplier who provides your locally-sourced organic ingredients.
  • Tag a business in your community who’s been especially supportive of food trucks and thank them for their contributions to the industry.

FoodTruckr ProTip: Whenever you go to tag someone, double-check that you’re tagging the correct person or page. On Twitter, you have to be especially careful that you’re spelling the user’s profile name correctly or else they’ll never see your message (and you could inadvertently end up linking to someone else’s feed). And on Facebook, auto-tagging suggestions could lead you to link to totally random pages that have nothing to do with your truck (like these hilarious stories of messages from “Grandpa and Grandmaster Flash”).

Stay in Touch with Your Fans

Social media is a powerful tool in every food truck owner’s arsenal, as it allows you to build relationships with new customers and stay in touch with your most loyal fans. And though platforms like Facebook and Twitter aren’t enough to keep your truck going on their own, they can and should serve as a key component in your overall marketing strategy—and as one of the first places your fans turn when they have something to say or want to find out where you’ll be heading next.

In next week’s “How to Run a Food Truck” lesson, we’ll continue to expand your community outreach by going over some new ways you can get involved with the people and events in your city. Stay tuned for some exciting new activities to help you develop a positive reputation as a local hero!

Until then, we want to know what you’re up to on social media and what strategies you’re using to grow your Facebook and Twitter fans. Tell us how often you post, what types of updates you prefer to share, and how your audience responds by leaving us a comment below or by saying hi on our Facebook or Twitter pages!

image by Lisa @ Sierra Tierra

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About the Author

FoodTruckr is the #1 online destination for current and aspiring food truck owners looking to succeed in the mobile food industry. Self described “food truck devotees,” the FoodTruckr team enjoys reading about successful entrepreneurs, salivating over photos of burritos on Twitter, and long walks through food truck parks. Chat with FoodTruckr on Facebook or check out the FoodTruckr School podcast for more awesome tips to level up your business.

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