Twitter Basics for Food Truck Owners – Part 1
I am consistently asked, “What are your top Twitter tips for food truck owners?” by readers of Mobile Cuisine Magazine. Often, I reply: “be regular, engaging, don’t push for sales, and become a resource of knowledge for your followers.” Recently, I have been thinking more about this topic and realized that although it is good advice that I should follow through, expand, and come up with a series on the subject of Twitter.
This series of articles is intended to be a simple list of Twitter essentials every food truck or cart owner should read, and use to modify their business social media marketing strategy if you feel, your current plan isn’t working as intended.
Twitter is the primary marketing and advertising platform used by mobile food vendors, and to maximize its use we came up with these tips to help anyone from the first time user, to a food truck owner with over 30,000 followers.
Step one is simple. You’ve got to be in it to win it.
On Twitter, you need to get there and start tweeting. Like all Social Media, you’re only going to get good at using it, get what you hoped from it and learn it’s quirks by using it and exploring what it can do. That’s the first really important tip. Don’t expect to start and on day one and know all there is to know. This process takes time.
2. Brand your Profile
In order to tie your Twitter profile to your other online profiles, match up the background and profile picture to the design and imagery that you’re using elsewhere. Twitter backgrounds are notoriously dificult since there are differences depending on viewer’s monitor size.
Your best bet is to go for Twitter background image dimensions of 1920 x 1200 pixels. Since Twitter positions the image to the top left, and because you only have the left and right side panels to add extra (non-hyperlink) info, work to the left side and keep within the first 110 pixels from the left edge – plus put anything important in the top 478 pixels but at least 40 pixels down from the top due to the permanent bar across the top of the screen.
Choose your profile picture wisely. It will generally be seen in a tiny format, so keep that in mind and make sure it’s consistent with your other branding logos photos.
3. Write a proper Bio
You only have 160 characters for your bio – for most people that equates to something between 20 and 30 words. Your bio has strong SEO (Search Engine Optimization) power, so you should use it to accurately describe your truck and cuisine with words that might help people find you if they found you in a Google or Twitter search.
The bio will be the description that shows up as the description under the blue search title in Google. Edit your ‘Name’ setting in your profile settings so that Truck’s name is displayed rather than just your username. And, make sure that you put the URL link to your main website in the ‘Web’ box in profile settings! The full link, with the ‘http’!
4. Start following
Add your friends first. As with most social network sites, Twitter will give you various ways to find friends such as by linking to your email account to see if they already have a profile – or you can seek them out on Twitter or by email. You can also Buy Twitter Followers.
Once you’ve added a few real world friends, interact with them, tweet a few 140 character messages and get a feel for it. Don’t just follow your friends though.
The accepted way to accelerate following is to add people that you think or hope will be interested in you, your brand and what you have to say, and many will follow you back. From that point on it is up to you to engage and reward them by being interesting, relevant and serve great food!
Remember that, odd as it might sound, having followers isn’t the point. It is all about interacting with them and the wider Twitter-sphere. The obvious things to do to start building Twitter following focused on your truck is to add everyone on your truck’s mailing list brokers (if you have one), send out bulletins to age old MySpace fans, do the same on Facebook and then start hunting. Targets are other food trucks in your local area, their fans, local venues and people in your scene.
For further adding the Twitter Search is a very powerful tool http://search.Twitter.com. You can keep it simple and search for trucks in your area and begin to add their followers or the followers of vendors you like.
Search peoples’ bios for locations close to yours and concentrate on adding those people first. Tweep Search can do this too but the API (the thing that lets them see Twitter data) is far from perfect, so you’re not getting a search of everyone on Twitter, but it’s a good place to start.
In the ‘Who to Follow’ section of Twitter (on the web) you can click ‘Browse Interests’ to show genre based lists of potential ‘followees’. Once you’ve been up and running it’s always worth checking here to see what Twitter has put in ‘View Suggestions’ since this is algorithmically driven by who you are following and your tweets – It always turns a few great ‘follows’ up for me.
Twellow is another very powerful search tool that is constantly tracking tweets and categorizing users into smaller and smaller niches. You can register yourself if you want (which is useful) but it gives you a great tool to use to search out people that you might want to follow.
5. What to tweet?
A good rule to follow is keep it short and sweet. Generally if it can’t be done in 140 characters, running over into several messages to get your point across isn’t what Twitter is about. Generally make each tweet a stand-alone statement.
First proper rule is to not just tweet all about you and what you’re trying to get people interested in – whether that’s selling something or giving something away free. Sure, you need to ask followers to check out your site, Facebook, and merchandise, but not in every tweet! I would suggest something close a 5 to 1 ratio of totally location referencing to general discussion.
The general discussion on can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. Some people do tell followers way too much information, but, for them, it seems to work. Generally, you don’t need to tweet about the everyday function – eating, sleeping and worse, but sometimes it’s OK.
On the food side, tell people about what you’re doing when parking at a sales location, testing a new menu item, getting a new t-shirt designed, what’s happening with the local laws regarding the mobile food scene in your area, etc.
But, if you really want to be open with your followers, tell them about you – what music are you listening to, which local restaurants do you like, where do you hang out, what do you do when not working in your truck. What common interests are you likely to share with your fans? This type of sharing garners a real sense of kinship you’re your followers.
6. How often?
Regularly is the key – as it is with all online activity for your truck. Most will be location based, but some personal, some question and some links is a good starting point. Try to think of it as how you would talk to people that you were hanging out with to gauge what to talk about, how often, when to change the topic etc.
It’s hard to know when it’s too much. If you feel like you’re detailing every little event and your followers aren’t growing organically or responding then you are probably overdoing it.
7. Be interesting and join the conversation
It’s not all about you. It’s about them. And the conversations you have with them. That’s what the ‘@’ is for. When someone wants to comment on something you have tweeted, they will usually use the ‘@’ reply. This appears in your stream and the public stream of anyone following you and / or the replier. This is very cool – it means that people can see that you’re getting reactions, some of whom may not already be following you. They may well therefore come over and check out what you’re all about.
It also obviously creates conversations that show you to be an interesting person. These foster genuine relationships with followers and potential customers. And that’s just when people come to you – it works even better the other way round – when you jump into something that you see going on that someone you’re following is talking about. Be involved, have an opinion and bat it back and forth.
If you actually look at what some of your followers tweet about, read their bios and go and look at their sites if they link to one, then you’ll find those that you genuinely want to talk to and find out more about. Of course, when you’re searching for topics that interest you and looking for people to follow, you can (as well as following them), join those conversations.
A tool that helps to isolate a larger topic of conversation is Tweet Chat. You log in with your Twitter user details and search for a topic using a hash tag. You can then jump in and out of the conversations that are highlighted from within Tweet Chat. However you do it, this is proper use of Twitter since you’re engaging people that you have, as yet, no direct connection with, but you’re coming to them with a relevant take on something that they’re already talking about. As long as you do this with genuine interest and no hype – i.e. just about the conversation, not trying to point them back to your site or mentioning your truck – you’re very likely to find the people that you find in that way checking you out and following you.
Don’t overdo the ‘@reply’. If you find you’re jumping in to conversations and not getting a response or are sending too many short (‘I agree’ / ‘That’s funny’) replies then you’re overdoing it. This makes you look too needy, shallow and the level of noise and interruption that you’re putting into your followers streams could well lead them to unfollow you.
One last thing, don’t ever just send an ‘@reply’ to someone you follow as an opening gambit which asks them to check out your site. It’s similar to shouting – it’s rude and it turns people off. Engage them another way first, by getting involved in their discussions and adding your thoughts and they are far more likely to come and check you out by their own volition.
We hope this introductory article on the use of Twitter will help those of you new to this social media platform, but may also lead to tips that even the seasoned Twitter user can use to better enhance the message you are trying to get out for your mobile food operation.
Keep an eye out for future articles on this subject.