Non-commercial foodservice slow to embrace social media

When used, however, photos are the key to social media engagement, operators say.

College operators are significantly more likely than other market segments to use social media to connect with their customers, according to The Big Picture data. Seventy-five percent use Facebook, and 38% say they employ Twitter. FSD spoke to marketing managers for dining services at two universities to find out about their social media strategies.

University of Missouri, Columbia

“You can really only focus on one social media strategy at a time,” says Michael Wuest, marketing manager for Campus Dining Services. “We decided to focus on increasing student engagement. Some people are focused on grabbing tons of followers or ‘likes,’ but we wanted to develop a good group of customers who would become ambassadors of our brand.”

According to Wuest, the most effective way to engage students is relatively simple: use photos. A daily hashtag promotion, launched this semester, incorporates photos whenever possible. A hashtag is a way to identify a topic on Twitter. For example, the department does a promotion called MyPlate Monday where students are asked via hashtag to submit photos of their plates, which are then posted in a Facebook album.

“People are visual and we get a lot more responses out of people if we share pictures than if we share a text-based update,” Wuest says. “We do Tuesday trivia questions, and they were originally just text-based messages. We added pictures to the posts, and the number of people who responded jumped.”

Michigan State University, East Lansing

Photos are also a big part of the social media strategy for Lindsey Bliss, digital communications manager. Her department uses Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to connect with customers. Recently, Bliss says she sent one of her social media interns to the university’s Halloween dinner to take photos and live-tweet the event. By the end of the night, the photos had already been posted on Facebook by students.

“Definitely make [your social media strategy] immediate, relevant and really interactive,” says Bliss. “I’ve noticed a real trend toward image-based sharing, so we try to use a lot of photos. Anything we post will have either a photo, a link to a YouTube video or a link back to our website, so it offers something besides just text.”

One important note, Bliss says, is to keep the same username for all your different social media platforms so followers can easily find you. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, MSU students know to look for the EatAtState name.

“Another cool thing we do with Twitter is we post daily specials that students can’t find out about anywhere else,” Bliss says. “We want to create a feeling of exclusivity to give customers a reason to follow us.” 

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
Mrs. T’s pierogies

From Mrs. T’s Foodservice.

Today’s college and university students demand customization, but they also seek out creative riffs on familiar dishes, making comfort food an area of opportunity for college & university operators.

This is especially true as more restaurants across all sectors add comfort-food favorites such as meatloaf, potato tots and loaded fries to menus.

Operators are already starting to see how a comforting, customizable ingredient such as pierogies meets those needs: Menu mentions of pierogies as an entree are up 9.3% over the last two years,...

Sponsored Content
local produce

From WinCup.

Today’s students care deeply about sustainability—much more so than the general population. For them, sustainable practices are visit drivers. What’s more, some 57% of students are willing to pay more for sustainable foods, according to Technomic’s recent College & University Consumer Trend Report . Sustainable claims drive visits, especially for young consumers: Some 31% of Gen Zers say they’re more likely to visit restaurants that try to be sustainable.

Students are looking for foodservice operations with comprehensive sustainability programs, and...

Industry News & Opinion

Mayfield High School in Mayfield, Ohio, has opened a coffee cart in its cafeteria, The News-Herald reports .

Open throughout the day, the cart sells 12-ounce cups of coffee for $2 each. Students were able to taste-test some of the offerings and were also involved in choosing the cart’s name.

The drinks are made with low-fat milk and unsweetened flavor syrups, and soy milk is on hand for those with allergies. To encourage more breakfast participation, the school gives students 50 percent off coffee when they also buy a breakfast item. Additionally, the cart is stationed next...

Sponsored Content
boston college acai bowl

From Dannon Foodservice.

Catering to the go-go-go lifestyle of university students is a challenge, and it’s one that Boston College dining representatives wrestle with daily.

“Students don’t just want to eat dinner between 5 and 7 p.m.,” says Beth Emery, the school’s director of dining. “They may want to eat dinner at 9 o’clock. We’ve been trying to come up with creative solutions.”

Those creative solutions include everything from offering breakfast items throughout the day to providing healthier late-night choices to trolling social media for trendy new menu ideas...

FSD Resources