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There is an inextricable link between Twitter and food trucks. As one food truck owner told me in an interview: social media, and especially Twitter, is everything they do, the lifeline of their business.

Like any other business marketing tool, there are good and bad ways to use Twitter. I don’t hold a doctorate in tweeting, but I have worked on enough social media campaigns to offer some insights to the art of tweeting. This is the type of advice social media consultants charge $100+/hour for, but since I love my food trucks, here are three of the most important tips for free.

1) As with everything else, tweet with moderation.

It is absolutely necessary to tweet regularly. There’s no faster way to lose followers than to never tweet (except maybe if you spam them). But be efficient and strategic in your tweets. If you only write 4-5 words per tweet and then send a quick succession of them, that’s spam. So are tweets that are useless and irrelevant to followers. [Offenders shall not be named here.]

2) Interact with your followers.

There’s a personal connection that comes with the business of food trucks in the age of social media. It’s part of the appeal. I love it when I’m craving something in particular and trucks like @thesouthernmac tweet me back almost instantly. When a truck doesn’t reply at all, it’s like sending an email or text or Facebook comment to a friend and never getting a response. Develop relationships with your followers by promptly answering their questions, replying to their comments, and listening to their complaints and suggestions. Your followers can be your best marketing tools as well as your worst PR catastrophes.

3) Use Twitter as a offline marketing tool as well.

In a business where the primary way of reaching the majority of your followers is online, sometimes it’s easy to forget that Twitter can also be employed offline. Start competitions where everyone is engaged but you only have to offer one prize. Offer specials to your followers. @5411empanadas had a particularly creative one. Via a tweet, they offered free drinks to anyone who showed up at the truck and said “you’re a pretty truck, but I know you also deliver.” Bam! They’ve got happy customers who now have that fact memorized.

The Tamale Spaceship is perhaps one of the most efficient in their Twitter usage. They rarely tweet out useless tweets and almost always engage their followers both on Twitter and in person. There’s also one very important aspect of Tamale Spaceship – the person in the truck is the one tweeting, or at least, is knowledgeable about what’s been going on via Twitter. I remember one particularly hot day when I was walking to Aon where they were parked. I was quite hungry and very much concerned they would leave before I arrived. I tweeted them and they confirmed they were going to stick around for a little longer (and that they still had veggie options). Once I arrived, I alluded to my tweets and next thing you know, me and Pepe were having a conversation like good ol’ friends.

This, unfortunately, does not happen with every truck. On another (VERY) hot day, I planned on getting lunch from another truck. Although they are otherwise great (food and social media-wise), they lacked that in-person aspect. A few kinks in parking resulted in them arriving about 6 or 7 blocks from me. I was in a time crunch so I hurried over and huffed and puffed my way to the truck… and the guys in the truck had no idea who I was or what I had been tweeting. Womp. While I understand that particular truck was part of a larger corporate structure, it was quite disappointing that the people selling me the food had no idea of the Twitter conversations I had been having with the person(s) managing their handle. If nothing else, those working the trucks should at least have been monitoring the tweets so they weren’t clueless. The personal interaction and communication is part of the appeal of food trucks, and instead, I felt jaded.

And so, above all others, I’m inclined to visit @tamalespace101 more often. Perhaps that’s why they were both Chicago Magazine’s Best of Chicago 2011 Best Food Truck winner and Reader’s Choice Best Food Truck for the Chicago Reader’s 2011 Best of Chicago list.

I’ve got loads more of social media advice and strategies to help you improve your business (and not just for food trucks!). Free free to contact me about them.

On another food truck-related note, check out this promo for the cover story I pitched, field produced and co-wrote! And don’t forget to tune in on WGN on Monday, August 8, 2011 at 9 p.m.!

[Updated 8/11/2011 11:30 a.m. PT]

Almost forgot to link to the story! Enjoy!