Food truck owners in Miami are an entrepreneurial breed. These men and women don't really have a typical profile. Some are chefs looking to start their own kitchen. Others are restaurant owners looking to start a supplemental mobile operation. Others are just plain foodies who want to ride the wave.
The one thing most have in common is their use of Twitter and Facebook as serious marketing tools.
Once the avenue for college kids to accumulate friends, social networking is now a part of a lot of company marketing strategies. For instance, Coca-Cola has more than 25 million Facebook friends, and Starbucks has more than 1 million Twitter followers. That means you can potentially share new product information with thousands or millions of people without traditional advertising campaigns.
Asked if social networking works, Jim Heins of Latin Burger says, "I have 12,000 people following me around, so I must be doing something right." How, exactly, does someone amass so many "friends"? Heins explains, "I kinda pioneered using Facebook and Twitter [among food trucks]. Nobody really knew how to use them and neither did I. But I saw that businesses were using these tools in their marketing strategies, so I followed."
Jack Garabedian, owner of Jefe's Original Fish Taco and Burger and organizer of one of Miami's largest and most established food truck roundups, not only believes in Facebook and Twitter but also makes it mandatory for all Biscayne Triangle Truck Roundup (BTTR) participants to have both a Facebook and a Twitter account plus a minimum of 300 followers on each. "That means you're out there and you're serious about your business," Garabedian says. "So when you come out to BTTR, you're reaching out to at least 300 potential customers."
Garabedian, with more than 5,000 combined followers, likes to keep things fresh. He'll feature a picture of a new menu item on Facebook or tweet about the kinds of vegetables he picked on a trip to local farms.
Social networking is the most cost-effective way for these small businesspeople to keep customers updated and let them know their whereabouts in a market that can change in an instant.
"It's really important," Garabedian says. "It's the only way I'm able to put information out there in real time. I can say I'll be at a location in ten minutes, and I'll have people waiting for me when I get there."
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Here's a list of some local food trucks and the number of Twitter followers they have (Short Order, by the way has 2,157):
- Latin Burger (5,221)
- GastroPod (3,677)
- The Fish Box (2,979)
- Dim Ssäm à Gogo (2,736)
- Ms. Cheezious (2,276)
- Sugar Rush (2,159)
- Jefe's Original (2,039)
- CheeseMe (1,979)
- Yellow Submarine (1,466)
- Grillmaster Café (1,414)
- The MexZican (1,042)
- Nacho Mama's (873)
- Miso Hungry (828)
- Caza Crepes (578)
- Sugar Yummy Mama (314)