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Twitter food trucksThere are still a lot of sceptics out there who consider Twitter overblown with hype and offering no tangible commercial value. I can understand that point of view but it often comes from a lack of vision regarding the role social media can play in customer communication and engagement.

This week I came across a truly innovative way that Twitter is being used in the US to generate demand and tap into a social vibe. Food trucks are cruising the streets of the US, using social media channels like Twitter to reach their audience and drive local street level activity.

The net result is queues of hungry punters lining up to savour their delicacy of choice, coverage in mass media and a whole lot of love and money. Who says Twitter is hot air?

The concept

Kobi BBQ on TwitterIt all started in California. Kobi BBQ launched with the concept back in November 2008. Founder Mark Manguera’s brain kicked into action in a post clubbing drunken bout of inspiration. Born out of personal hunger, 30 days later he’s set up Kobi BBQ and quickly became the buzz of the town using online social networking.

Boasting leading chef Roy Choi who has graced many top US restaurants, the idea was no flash in the pan. The goal was to connect with food lovers at grassroots level, bringing quality food to the kerb at affordable prices.

Role of Twitter

Twitter is the primary communication channel because of its ubiquity and penetration of mobile devices. No matter what time of day or location, Twitter updates can reach a large audience instantaneously. 

It’s similar (in my mind) to Flash Mob events where a crowd can be assembled in one location with a shared interest. It taps into the transient nature and attention span of the Twitter generation – you don’t need to think, you just need to act, read the 140 characters and get to the location specified. Eat, chat, embrace street culture then drift back to where you came from.

The results

In just over a year these trucks have blown up from nonexistence to citywide euphoria. A "food truck festival" in downtown LA drew in 20,000 people last month. The one thing they have in common is that they operate on Twitter.

There is now a long list of food trucks on Twitter. If you’re interested, take a peek at the growing list and hook up to their accounts to see how they’re doing it. What I love the most is that it’s such a simple concept – that’s not meant to denigrate the idea, for me simple ideas are often the most inspiring.

So, cynics take a step back and look at how business can use social media to drive demand. I’m not foolish enough to think this works for every market but as with any business decision, it’s about understanding your audience and giving it a go. The lesson is that you can deliver solutions via Twitter even if your audience doesn’t yet know it has a need.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who knows of other niche areas where Twitter and social media are driving innovation.

Thanks to Jason Spitz, e-commerce Director at Prodege LLC (via LinkedIn) for the nod towards the trucking story. 

James Gurd

Published 15 March, 2010 by James Gurd

James Gurd is Owner of Digital Juggler, an ecommerce and digital marketing consultancy, and a contributor to Econsultancy.He can be found on on Twitter,  LinkedIn and Google+.

49 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Ned Wells

Ned Wells, CEO at Zanzi Digital

Hi James, thanks for this post. Couple of the links in the post don't work:

One in The results section called 'growing list', and 'Jason Spitz (right down at the bottom). Could you check them out as I'd like to visit them. Thanks!

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Ned

Not sure why, have escalated to the Editorial masters to investigate

cheers

james

over 6 years ago

Trevor Ginn

Trevor Ginn, Managing Director at Hello Baby

Hi James,

In my post the other day, I wasn't really trying to say that Twitter has no commercial value, just that the the performance of most high profile twitter accounts does not justify the hype.  

Examples like the one above great and I think that these are the kind of example of success that should be celebrated, not Asda or Debenhams spending a lot of time and effort reaching about 0.001% of their customers.

Trevor Ginn

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Trevor

I wasn't actually referring to your post, the Econsultancy's ed team must have added that link.

I agree with a lot of what you say - Twitter is not in itself the answer to all eCommerce problems, it simply provides another communication tool that brands can tap into.

Whether or not it works is down to a miriad of factors as you well know.

So please don't think I was responding to your post, it was more an observation based on speaking to a lot of traditional retailers who still consider social media to be the devil's work.

thanks

james

over 6 years ago

Corinna Witt

Corinna Witt, Owner at Corinna Witt : e-conceptory

Hi all,

Can anyone share a similar example with regards to using Twitter in the hospitality or travel industry? We've seen quite a social media hype at the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin this year and I was wondering whether people from that industry would have case studies they are willing to share?

Leave your comments on my blog, please at: Hotel Online Marketing Blog

over 6 years ago

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Social Steve

Twitter can be an important INTEGRATED piece of marketing.  My position is that Twitter alone is a weak marketing tool, but used in combination with other social media tools, it can help to reinforce the brand perception you seek. You can check out the article "In Social Media, Twitter is Just the Start" at http://bit.ly/dpduhJ . Let me know your thoughts ... always looking to hear everyone's perspective.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

over 6 years ago

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