If you want consumers to follow your brand religiously on Twitter, Natasha Case, proprietor of one of America's fastest-growing food truck businesses, suggests you create as much dogma as possible. For her homemade ice cream sandwiches company, Coolhaus, Case's social media team regularly tweets secret passwords for specials as well as off-the-menu items to keep customers engaged. Her trucks each sell as many as 500 "sammies" per day, at $4 to $6 apiece.
"Twitter is fantastic for location-based tweets and creating the 'cult' of the [food] truck," she said, "and also for the non-stop [spectacle] of customers stuffing their faces with our sammies."
Social media has been at the heart of Coolhaus's impressive run, which began two-and-a-half years ago when Case and fellow cofounder Freya Estreller started their venture in spite of a poor economy. Next month, they will launch two trucks in Miami, bringing their enterprise to 11 mobile commerce units in four markets. Coolhaus also has trucks in Los Angeles, New York City, and Austin, TX, employing 35 people in all.
Coolhaus has 32,000 Twitter followers and 9,000 Facebook likes. Each market has its own Twitter handle. Even though the Miami trucks do not debut for a couple of weeks, @coolhausMIA already has 148 followers after tweeting a few dozen times.
In a recent ClickZ News interview, Case credited social media marketing as "extremely important" for building her Los Angeles-based company into something more than a local brand. Twitter has become a nerve center that allows Case to manage her mobile business units from afar. Twitter helps build "the brand identity and keep track of customer response," she said, while "managing the look of the trucks when we now have so many and can't always be on site to see the trucks ourselves."
Her on-site truck managers are responsible for tweeting items like daily menus, specials, and when one of the ice cream sandwiches is out of stock. On the other hand, a Los Angeles-based events manager handles what Case calls "infrastructural tweets," messaging where the trucks are going to be and how long they'll be there. The events manager is also in charge of Facebook posts, she said.
Case commented, "Facebook seems a bit more institutional - for bigger picture messages, long-term coupons or contests…[It's] more like a club that holds daily meetings than a memo for constant updates."
While dabbling in Google and Facebook ads, Coolhaus has leaned heavily on earned media and its email newsletter (8,000 subscribers) for marketing. In addition to the Miami food trucks, Case and her team are opening up a Los Angeles storefront next month - their first non-mobile spot. With a fixed location that doesn't move daily like her food trucks, she plans to integrate Foursquare into the shop's marketing mix.
Case suggested her product line - 13 cookie varieties and dozens of exotic ice cream flavors, like Chocolate Chipotle - and Twitter naturally go hand in hand.
"Call me old-fashioned," she said, "but I just think we have a seriously tasty, honest, unique product - and people get a little obsessed with it. But other strategies like the passwords, posting lots of pictures and links definitely keeps the [Twitter] account lively and desirable to follow."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
March 19, 2014