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

Industry News & Opinion

Italian food hall chain Eataly is making plans for a 2018 initial public offering in its home country, according to a report this week in Financial Times.

The company plans to list shares on the Italian stock exchange in Milan “as early as next year,” Eataly Executive Chairman Andrea Guerra told Financial Times .

Eataly is eager to expand the presence of its massive Italian food emporiums in the U.S., which have helped spur the growing food hall trend . The company has five locations here, with two in New York City and one each in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Financial...

Industry News & Opinion

Students staffing the foodservice department at Rutgers University will soon get an hourly pay bump, as the New Brunswick, N.J., university is raising its wage for student workers to $11 an hour, philly.com reports.

The increase will go in effect Jan. 1 and will impact 13,000 students.

The fight to raise wages at the school was spearheaded by student group United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), which is continuing to push the university to increase student wages to $15.

The fight for a $15 wage for student workers has spread at schools throughout the country,...

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

FSD Resources