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National Restaurant Association - Roy Choi: Honest social media will put you in driver’s seat

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Roy Choi: Honest social media will put you in driver’s seat


If you see social media as a chore, it won’t be successful, Chef Roy Choi said at Tuesday at our Restaurant Innovation Summit. The technology and marketing conference runs today through Thursday in Austin.

In a lively Q&A with food blogger Addie Broyles, the godfather of the food truck revolution said he loved social media because he could say whatever he wanted in real time. “It’s stream of consciousness.” But, he added, you’ve got to live and breathe it or it will fight you back. “It has to be an extension of you.”

The Los Angeles-based chef got on Twitter in 2008. It was a cheap way for him to market his Korean taco truck, Kogi, to a mass audience. “Nobody was really using Twitter back then,” he said. “It was free and we had no money. We were driving around, going block to block, selling our tacos and putting our innermost thoughts out there. Then we’d give them the tacos, their eyes would roll back in their heads, and we’d tell them to follow us on Twitter.”

The strategy worked. Today the classically trained Choi owns several restaurants, including Chego, Sunny Spot and Alibi Room as well as his beloved food trucks. He also is an acclaimed author and the inspiration for the film “Chef,” starring Jon Favreau.

Engaging in social media has to be an investment, not just an amenity or something you think you have to do. “You have to make it a part of your philosophy, a line item of your business.”

Make more of your social presence. Try these tips:

Be honest with yourself. Social media is about honesty, Choi said. You don’t have to be the best at it. But what is your identity and reason for using it? If it’s just to make capital, it probably won’t serve its purpose for you. It can be one of the quickest ways to lead you to prosperity, but at the same time you’ll crash and burn if you’re not honest with it. And if you’re not, invest in someone who is.

Find your voice. Practice, and pull yourself out of your instinct or habit of speaking in a certain way, Choi said. You don’t have to repeatedly mention things or have a hashtag for everything.

Listen and engage. If you’re not responding to someone else’s questions or engaging with someone you think is your competitor and creating some kind of friendly dialogue online, that’s a missed opportunity, Broyles said. If you’re only shoving out content and not leaving comment on other people’s Instagram quotes or retweeting, you’re living one side of it.

Choi advised patience, saying success might not be quick. “It may be a slow burn, but if you stick with it, someone somewhere will find it, laugh, and it will go viral.”

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