It's the small business that Intuit says will be a $2.7 billion national industry by 2017, and every day you can find a new one rolling into the neighborhood - the food truck.
Food trucks are hardly a novel start-up concept at this point though. About 3,915 rolling restaurants are currently in business with a little over 14,000 people employed with them. The food truck carries plenty of curbside appeal in that it provides fast, fresh, and well-prepared food to those on the go while enabling customers within the area to show their support for local businesses. And they're also pretty cheap when it comes to start-up expenses, typically requiring $55,000 to $75,000 to get up and running.
Being much less expensive to own and operate as opposed to a storefront business is always a plus for a new entrepreneur, but food trucks rely on strong word of mouth and reach through social platforms to succeed. This is more than just starting a Facebook account and assuming people will adhere to the whole "build it and they will come" adage. If you're going to run a food truck, and make it successful, you need to employ a strategy as to how to find your audience and ensuring they know where to find you.
1) Register your vendor on finder apps and sites.
Any business on wheels is bound to be on the move and the best way for your existing, as well as new, customers to keep up with where you're going today is to have a presence on finder apps. Many of these apps can be region specific (like Food Truck Fiesta in Washington D.C.) but there are several that provide tracking information on where street food vendors are headed next. A personal favorite of mine, Roaming Hunger, has a clock available to see which trucks are in your area at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, information on how to book vendors for catering events, and notes on how to sign your truck up to get on the map (literally).
2) Make your website and @ handle easily accessible in real life.
Got a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram? Make sure that your handles are visible on the outside of your actual food truck and that the napkins, cups, and paper containers holding the food you're passing out have a stamp of the URLs to these social presences included somewhere on them. This may sound excessive, but the reality is that just adding a little square Twitter icon box isn't helpful. What if the name of your business was already taken on Twitter and you had to add in an underscore to differentiate your brand? How would the customer know that from looking at your icon? Don't be afraid to spell out your handles when first starting out!
3) Don't post the exact same information on every social account.
It's pretty easy to sync everything up and have all the same pictures, phrases, hashtags, and @ mentions file in all at once, neat and orderly. But while the food truck is the wild card of the entrepreneurial world, it doesn't need to be stiff in its social approach. Create a strategy for what to post and when to post - everything from where to find you and at what times (including sudden scheduling changes), what's on the menu this week, and step by step photos in a PicStitch layout of a recipe in action.
4) Make sure your brand has a voice.
Your tone needs to fit in well with whatever food your truck specializes in, whether you offer up juice smoothies or sushi. Always make sure you're talking to your followers and interacting with them, whether that means a regram of what a customer ordered that afternoon on Instagram or making a special request order for someone who tweeted something they'd like you'd to experiment and test out. And remember that the area you're parked in contributes just as much to that voice too. Don't be afraid to snap a photo of a hand holding up a burrito near a famous local monument ("can you guess where we're at today?") or a nearby van that kinda looks like yours (#twinsies) and adding in your own commentary to spice up the post.
5) Make sure the food comes first.
Which came first, the food or the foodies? It's a little hard to tell here, but where all your social efforts are concerned, the food is the heart of the business and needs to be seen as such. At the end of the day, you're still running a business and need to make sure you satisfy both the customer base as well as provide your employees (and self) with a sufficient return on investment. Be excited if a celebrity tweets how delicious your grilled cheese sandwiches are, but don't make it your sole focus to get as many high-profile influencers talking you up online as possible either. Remember, it's all about the eats at the end of the day!