Kristi and Sam Whitfield are living a dream. When they launched their first food truck in Washington, DC, four years ago selling only cupcakes, people were skeptical. They now have three Curbside Cupcakes trucks, a kiosk at the indoor artisanal food emporium Union Market, and a Curbside Cafe in a residential area of the city.
I recently spoke with Kristi about how they use social media to fuel their mini cupcake empire. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you use social media for marketing when you were just a food truck?
From the beginning, we had Facebook and Twitter accounts. While we were working on the truck, we said, OK, let’s get our friends and family to follow us. I wanted to have 500 followers on Facebook by the time we actually launched; now we have over 25,000. On Twitter, we don’t have as many, and I don’t know why; we are in the mid-16,000s.
What do you post on Facebook and Twitter?
We use them to communicate with our customers. I think, more importantly, our customers use them to be in communication with us. The important thing about social media is that it’s social. We really try to use social media to stay in a conversation with our customers.
At a very elementary level, we use Facebook and Twitter to tell everyone where we are and what today’s flavors are. If we have a special or we do a customer appreciation event, we share that, too.
More than a website, Facebook and Twitter are good for immediate information, which, for a food truck, is really important. Many times, we find ourselves struggling to find parking. If we’re not where we say we’re gonna be, we’ll put it out on Facebook and Twitter.
Are you posting different stuff now that you have a bricks and mortar location?
Yes, somewhat, but really it’s just more information. First thing in the morning, we put out our food truck stuff. When we have a new flavor at the café, we’ll put that up on Facebook later in the day. We use it to let our followers know we are here. One guy even used Capital Bikeshare to come over and check us out.
People ask lots of questions – can you do a custom cake, will you come to this location, etc.? One thing that is important to me is there are plenty of conversations that happen on my Facebook page and on Twitter that do not include me. And I think that’s lovely. And it’s fun! We see ourselves as members of that community.
Of course, not every post we get is a lovegram.
So, how do you handle those complaints?
Out in public. We’ve had all kinds – once in the very early days we sold out [of food], and one woman went crazy. This woman was really mad, and we were really sorry. There’s something very immediate about social media, and very pure. It’s what people feel in that moment. Some people responded on our behalf and said, hey, they’re new, they’re trying! And she replied that was just disappointed. It was a very honest reaction.
Someone might say, hey I got the wrong cupcake. And we’ll apologize and say, ‘Email us and we’ll make it right.’ This is an open conversation. It’s not private, and that’s one of the strengths of social media.
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