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When I was a kid, there was an ice cream truck that rolled by our house around 3:00 every afternoon, like clockwork. I could always rely on that ice cream truck, and I’d bring friends from the next street over to buy some ice cream on those hot, summer afternoons. Little did I know, I was a part of a social network, and Social Reach a conduit of social reach. Back then, most small businesses relied on word of mouth and some local advertising to reach their customers, and believe it or not, they still do.

Social reach is nothing more than a kid telling his friends about an ice cream truck. The most common mistake I see people make when they try to extend their social reach (friends telling friends, and so on) is they look at it as something separate from “real life.” The bottom line is the concepts of Social Media Marketing are no different than traditional marketing – we’re just sending more concise messages, packaged for fast, efficient distribution.

What many food truck and food stand owners don’t realize is that their Facebook and Twitter pages are their virtual storefronts, and they’re standing at the order window 24/7. There are five rules of thumb that every food truck and food stand operator should live by to convert casual observers into actual paying customers.

Rule # 1 Consistency is the holy grail.

It all starts with branding. Consider it your business’ DNA. Everything you do must ALWAYS deliver a consistent message that reflects your branding. Tip: consider your interaction on social networks a continuation of your interaction at the window. Simply stated, you need to write about a lot more than your next location and your blog posts need to get a lot deeper than how busy you were at the last round-up.

Rule # 2 Give them something they want to see or something they can use.

Believe it or not, “what” you say really is just as important as “how” you say it. Share more than just your next location. Share recipes or videos on your blog and on social networks. Greet new followers, offer “thank you” gifts, such as coupons or a free item for following, and ask your fans for input. Offer a secret menu and exclusive offers to fans and subscribers. Engage with customers when they approach your social network or blog in the same way you’d engage with them in person, and you’re more than halfway home.

Rule # 3 Frequency will make or break you.

As far as Google is concerned, if it’s not fresh, it’s a pretty low priority. There’s a reason for that. People aren’t interested in old content, for the most part. They want the most recent information available. Write engaging, consistent, keyword-rich content to your blog and social network regularly. Not only will your business be at the forefront of Google, your fans and readers will keep coming back for more.

Rule # 4 Be concise.

Send big messages in small packages. Make messages easy for people to share. After all, that is the purpose of sending them in the first place. Integrate share buttons on your blog, and keep messages “tweetable.”

Rule # 5 Be visible.

Use tags and keywords for blog posts, status updates and tweets so Google and other search engines can find them. Use tools, such as Google’s Keyword Tool to locate the best keywords for your content.

To recap, the next time you sit down at the keyboard to tweet your next location, or write that quick blog post about your last event, think about what that message is actually saying. Write as if you’re sitting across a table from a friend, or as if you’re looking a customer in the eye at the order window. Engage with personality, and deliver a consistent theme in your content. Write frequently, so your messages are not only consistent, they’re current. Then, keep your messages on point and filled with keywords. Customers will not only find you online, they’ll look forward to visiting your order window.

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About the Author

Chris Ford is the founder of Stitches 'n Dishes and editor in chief with a passion for food, photography and travel. Chris is a Media Correspondent for the Food Network TV show, Eat St, a syndicated blogger, seasoned event organizer and promoter, a food critic, a marketing consultant and Social Media Marketing expert. Chris is also a fashion and entertainment photographer. When he's not dining on the sidewalk, he's snapping photos on the catwalk.