Social Food

By Hannah Doyle

It’s no question that Portland is America’s Garden of Eden for street food, but the lunch-hour lines that snake around the 500+ food trucks in the Rose City are hardly a product of overnight success. With its economical ethos and low start-up costs, most food carts take to social media to get the word out on whereabouts and specials.

“People need to know real quick where we are,” KP Sawyer, Social Media Manager at Koi Fusion, says. “Twitter has been the lifeline of Koi since it began and it’s just getting better.”

Koi Fusion is a collision of Korean and Mexican fare, offering up dishes like Kimchi quesadillas and Bulgogi beef burritos. With six locations, it boasts over 13,800 Twitter followers.

Photo courtesy of Koi Fusion Instagram

Photo courtesy of Koi Fusion Instagram

Sawyer monitors and responds to everything from their followers around the clock, and warns against establishments that post content and don’t respond to customer feedback, “It’s one of the worst things a business could do,” Sawyer says, “It’s kind of being the guy at the party who only talks about himself—no one really wants to follow that person.”

Garnering attention from The New York Times and Hypebeast, Koi Fusion produces some drool-worthy photo ops, which Sawyer captures and shares with the 11,000 Koi Fusion Instagram followers.

“People on Instagram go crazy over food pictures. It helps if people have pictures of [Koi Fusion]. If people see that photo they’re going to remember it,” Sawyer says. 80% of Koi Fusion’s Instagram photos come from other user’s accounts.

Sawyer takes screenshots of pictures Koi Fusion is tagged in and posts them on Instagram, with the photographer’s username in the caption. Sawyer says it increases the likelihood of users telling their friends and spreading word about the food truck.

Sawyer doesn’t limit himself to customer-generated content to increase word of mouth, but experiments with competitor’s specials. At every Blazer game, Taco Bell offers free Chalupas if the Blazers score 100 points. Sawyer took to Facebook and Twitter to advertize that Koi Fusion would accept a Chalupa coupon in exchange for a free taco, and received an influx of customers following the games.

Without social media, the turn-out wouldn’t have been as great, which Sally Murdoch, the woman operating social media for the Frying Scotsman, can attest to.

Photo courtesy of Sally Murdoch

Photo courtesy of Sally Murdoch

Murdoch’s husband, James King, is the frying Scotsman himself who serves up fish and chips UK style on SW 9th and Alder. On opening day, he withheld advertising to ensure food perfection and smooth operations. After a mere three customers, Murdoch went to Facebook, Twitter, and email to reach out to her network in Portland. The following day the Frying Scotsman had over 20 customers, and closed early due to selling out by noon.

“Day one was a little painful, I saw it myself,” Murdoch says, “If you don’t know social media and electronic marketing, hire someone to do it.”

Murdoch’s day job is in public relations, so when it came to helping her husband’s food cart, advertising came naturally. Twitter and Facebook are her most used tools to reach their customers.

“You have to time it correctly. You do it that morning when people are thinking about their lunch, and do it the night before so people don’t pack their lunch the next day.” Murdoch says.  When there are specials based on season and availability at the fish market she posts twice—to Facebook first, then Twitter because Frying Scotsman has the most followers on Facebook.

Murdoch stresses the importance of getting a photo to supplement a post, and to post often, “[Social media] has influenced the business through traffic. Having been to the cart, and have someone being on foursquare posting something, taking a photo and friends seeing it—people think ‘god what is that?’”

Customer involvement and loyalty is the aim of the social media game, and the answer doesn’t come from one outlet, but a mixture of whatever social media tools work best for a business.

“Hitting all these different people across different media and not one single media I think has been the best way to get more traffic and more interest,” Murdoch says.

Whether a popular Korean-fusion establishment with 6 locations or a man from Scotland sharing homeland delicacies in a small white cart, social media plays an integral role and shows that social media can tailor to a business any shape or size.

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