Sunday 25 September 2016

The Digital Table

Across the globe, friends and family are sitting down at the dinner table every day to not only savor the food, but to spend quality time together. But in the digital age, the definition of a meal has evolved what it means to truly “consume food.” Food now tells a digital story and as members of the online community, we are eager to nosh on every detail.

Food on the Go: The Rise of Food Trucks Utilizing Social Media

The world of food is increasingly mobile as food trucks across the country serve everything from cupcakes to tacos. What makes food trucks unique is their seamless connection to the digital space. Business is on–the-go and social media allows food trucks to engage with their customers and provide real-time updates via Twitter. For instance, a unique food truck offering in New York called Wafels Dinges serving authentic Belgian Waffles has over 23,000 followers, which is on par with several large food brands and even celebrities. Food trucks and social media were a hot topic in a panel at SXSW this year. Advice from panelists highlighted that the most successful owners are utilizing social media to build a community, rather than just sharing promotional offers for free food and discounts.

As kids we would anxiously await the arrival of the ice cream man on a hot summer day. Ice cream can always be pulled out of a freezer; however, the ice cream truck only comes every so often. Food trucks provide that same level of excitement by connecting a sense of nostalgia from our past while embracing the evolution of the digital world.

The food truck phenomenon has led several brands to consider food truck activations. However, prior to launching a food truck a brand should consider the importance of Transmedia storytelling to tell a story that encompasses, digital, owned, hybrid and traditional media. Otherwise, the message could easily get lost to the massive food truck space.

Putting the “App” in Appetizing!

Regardless of any trends, location or buzz, in order to connect with food it has to be appetizing. In the digital world, popular food apps are competing, not only to appeal to our taste buds but our lives surrounding food. Apps have reinvented how we shop, meal plan, eat, think about and share our meals.

  • Location-based Check-Ins: Foursquare allows users to “check-in” where they are, share on other social channels and unlock rewards. In January 2012 according to Mashable, the site partnered with Single Platform to add menus and pricing information for approximately 250,000 restaurants, giving a location-based guide on where to go. Brands like The Food Network also are active on Foursquare posting food recommendations and tips from chefs at specific locations. Foursquare will soon provide a richer experience for users through integration with third party apps. This new update will provide integrated app recommendations directly within Foursquare. For instance, when a user checks in to a restaurant, app integrations with Men’s Health “Eat This, Not That” or FoodSpotting can provide direct recommendations. Integration with Instagram and Path will also allow users to cross-post photos shared on Foursquare. The new integration follows closely on the heels of a mobile redesign from Foursquare, which provides a stronger emphasis on photos, and enables users to like specific check-ins.

  • Food Photography: Documenting what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is becoming standard fare with the #food hashtag. Use of mobile photo applications, like Instagram and Hipstamatic, allow users to snap a photo of their meal, edit, filter and seamlessly share on social channels. In a recent series of updates, Instagram added a new tab called ”Explore” that will replace the current “Popular” tab, which showcases the photos with the most likes. The new “Explore” tab will make it easier for users and brands, to search for usernames or hashtags. In addition, a new open graph setting will also allow users to directly upload pictures they like to their Facebook profile. The Open Graph functionality will go some way toward populating the Likes from Instagram and Facebook into one place. The increased connection between Instagram and other social channels allows a meal between two people to be experienced by millions.

  • Food Discovery: Looking for a dinner recommendation? Several apps, such as Foodspotting and Yelp allow users to find restaurants near their current location or search for restaurant recommendations by type of food or location and leave tips for other users, answering the question, “what’s good around here?” Even festival apps, such as the Lollapalooza app for 2012, have built food into the discussion. Lollapalooza hosts a large food market and all of the participating restaurants can be found on the app. In addition, you can track where your friends are to see when they’re enjoying a food break. Who doesn’t love when the world of music, food and festivals intersect?

Food Recommendations and Recipes Go Social

Food and cuisine becomes a global dinner party in the social space. While Facebook allows us to connect with our network of family and friends, Twitter expands our food experiences to a network of individuals that share similar interests and tastes.  Twitter can give tourists visiting a new city a local perspective on the best restaurants under 140 characters.

Food is the topic du jour on Pinterest, with food lovers who track and save online inspiration for personal menu planning. Many Pinterest boards are dedicated to specific ingredients, meal times, restaurants and a love of food. Food-focused brands like Whole Foods and Cooking Light magazine curate pins and boards on Pinterest to share food and recipe inspiration with new audiences.

The great thing about Pinterest is the connection of an online conversation with traditional word-of-mouth. Parties featuring a creative food idea are now ending with the statement, “I found it on Pinterest.”  The opportunity for brands, chefs and other foodies to connect with an enthusiastic audience has never been so great.

This post was written to share a perspective on food not only from the digital perspective but also from two different coasts, Chicago and San Francisco. There will always be a local and regional importance to food, yet the digital world is allowing us to enjoy food on a local level through food trucks and Foursquare check-ins and on a global level through social updates and apps. There is no doubt this makes the kitchen table or “digital table” one of the best places to be online and offline.

Bon appetit!

This post was compiled by Diana Kelter and Andi Teggart.

Image credit: tarale

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