On Food and Social Media

If you saw my Quantified Self post, you learned that one of my “key knowledges and interests” is food & cooking. One challenge that I’ve faced in pursuing this passion through social media, though, is finding my way through the plethora of not-always-relevant tweets by food trucks and chefs, daily pictures of people’s food, and endless recipe blogs. Today’s post is about unique and useful intersections of food and social about that cut through the chatter, along with suggestions for further improvements to the food and social media landscape.

#1: Crossover promotions with food trucks and other industries

It’s now baseline for food trucks to use Twitter accounts to share their location and menu items. Many trucks have even branched out to other social media tools, like Facebook or Foursquare, that allow them to crowd-source fan ideas or give out rewards to frequent customers.

What’s newer and more exciting is cross-category promotions like the one that Virgin America did recently with food trucks in SF and LA. To promote new routes to Mexico, Virgin America created a challenge where would-be flyers had to seek out selected Mexican taco trucks and check-in on Loopt (another location-based social network) while ordering 2-for-1 tacos. Doing so qualified them for a 2-for-1 deal on tickets. It ended up being the fifth highest sale day ever for Virgin America.

Source: Airlinetrends.com

This promotion was not only fun but made total sense (tacos + Mexico), and I’d love to see more cross-category promotions like it. Maybe by checking in at select hot dog stands in downtown Boston, you could earn half off on Red Sox tickets. Or buying x number of sno-cones in the summer months earns you a free lift ticket for the next winter. We all have foods that we associate with certain events and experiences, so why not leverage those through promotions that combine the two?

#2: Tweeting recipes in the tweet

My ‘foodies’ Twitter list points to a lot of the usual suspects: local food trucks, grocery or specialty (read: cupcake) stores near me, food authorities like Food Network and its celebrity chefs, and a rotating list of food blogs. But one foodie, Maureen Evans of @cookbook, stands out. She shares entire recipes in 140 charactors – the length of a single tweet. I love this idea because it means I don’t have to click through a link to get to the full recipe or blog post (which is how almost every other person who tweets about food does it). As a confident home cook, I get what I need from this recipe without all the back story and details.

If I were to take this idea one step further, I’d create a food only sub-network for sharing tweets containing pictures of what you cook/eat with your friends plus a 140-charactor recipe/description. This network would be opt-in, so my friends who find ‘what I ate’ pictures gratuitous wouldn’t have to see them.  Maybe it’s just instagram for food (cookstagram?), but I think it would be pretty neat.

#3: Visual-based recipe collections

Browsing beautiful food creations is by far one of my favorite uses for Pinterest, the visual bookmarking tool I love so much. They say you first eat with your eyes, which is why I think using such a visual tool to save recipes is brilliant. In case you’ve never used Pinterest, here’s what a Pinterest food board looks like:

What’s neat about using Pinterest is that everything you pin is your choice, and you’re not limited by where you can source recipes from – you can literally pin any image on the web. You can also use the iPhone app to pin your own photos – so in theory you could take a picture of something you just cooked and pin it up there with notes.

If I were to make Pinterest even more useful for recipes, I’d want to be able to make sub-boards, so I could nest boards for main courses, baked goods, appetizers, etc. under my food board. I’d also want to make it a 1-click process to get from the visual spread to the recipe I want. Finally, at some point I might want to turn my favorite dishes into a physical cookbook so I could leave my iPad out of the kitchen. That’s where tools like Blurb (a self publishing service) or Tastebook (a site that turns virtual cookbooks into printed hard copies) could come in handy.

Finally, one other idea.

I watch a lot of Food Network, and pretty much eat up everything they throw at me, from thinking their celebrity chefs are awesome, to believing that the restaurants featured on ‘Diners, Drivers, and Dives’ or ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate’ are must-visits. What Food Network could really do for me, then, is to use a location-based application to alert me when I’m near a celebrity chef, restaurant, or food truck featured on one of their shows. Bridging the gap between the TV world and real world would benefit their stars, and would drive me back to their shows if they alerted me to something I hadn’t seen yet.

In conclusion, using social media to talk about food has become so noisy that it’s difficult for me to figure out who to listen to. As a result, I’ve turned my attention to food folks using social media in unusual ways that rely on principles core to enjoying food. Have I missed any? I’m interested to hear about your favorite food & social media pairings, or ideas for them!

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6 thoughts on “On Food and Social Media

  1. i’m with you on the food trucks & twitter: i follow kogi, which sends out maybe 17 updates per day on locations, and the only reason i haven’t stopped following them is that i’m hoping they’ll announce one day (probably via twitter) that they’re expanding to the east coast. it’s unlikely, i know, but i think i would miss the chatter anyway.

    i haven’t seen the 140 character recipes before, and that seems like a pretty interesting concept. of course, a recipe in 140 characters plus a link to images & clarifications of abbreviated words would be helpful, too.

    and i love your idea about being able to figure out, by looking at your phone, that you’re 2.5 miles away from a bobby flay restaurant, or a place where guy fieri ate; or that there’s a bookstore nearby that carries copies of the momofuku milk book. how that happens, i’m not entirely sure. but there must be a way.

    • Jo Writes says:

      I know what you mean about Kogi-esque tweets. It seems like a key value proposition for using Twitter to follow Kogi is that you get the message (“Kogi is coming to the east coast!”) delivered to you when it happens rather than having to load Kogi’s website periodically to check if they’ve got news. The tradeoff is that once you follow someone, you’re signed up for all of their messages, when there are only a select few that you care about. My former colleague Conrad wrote an interesting post last week called Twitter’s Jumble that I really liked. He basically states that Twitter has five key uses ranging from sharing what’s going on with you to tweeting about a breaking news event to sharing links – but all those uses get jumbled into the same stream of updates. I think we’re both watching the space to see if Twitter or a startup will create some way to meaningfully segment the tweets without ruining what makes Twitter work.

      • it seems like lately the hashtags will get you an overload of celebrity gossip, and actually clicking on a hashtag to read the content as it gets posted, live, is kind of like watching a train wreck.

        conrad’s thoughts were interesting to read – it’s a question of whether or not twitter will implement them. in the meantime, i’m becoming less interested in @chefludo’s retweeting of other people’s compliments.

  2. hey, great blog! love it 🙂

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