Warning: the following post contains major spoilers for the movie Chef (2014).
This is the story of Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), a renowned Chef in Los Angeles. Upon a negative review from one of the most prominent food critics that went viral on Twitter, Carl understands the terrible impact social media can have as he loses his job. But our favorite Chef will take this opportunity to follow a lifelong dream of owning a food truck and through the help of his social media aficionado son Percy (Emjay Anthony) reclaims the public and the critic’s love for his fine cuisine.
This movie was not interesting to me from a foodie perspective, but I find it extremely relevant to anyone wanting to use social media to promote their business. This movie clearly shows the “Do’s and Don’ts” of social media marketing.
The “don’ts” of social media marketing
Let’s start with the “Don’ts” because this is what the first part of the movie is about. It all started with a negative critic that went trending on Twitter, with hundreds of shares, replies and retweets:
Carl, who had just learnt about Twitter through his son decided to set up a profile of his own to give the critic a piece of his mind. What Carl didn’t know however, is that you can only send a “Direct Message” in private only if both accounts are following each other. Hence Carl just twitted to this prominent, recognized food critic a quite harsh statement that was open to read to all the Twitter community.
The critic retweeted Carl’s Tweet to his 123845 followers and responds:
“I would rather have you sit on my face, after a brisk walk on a warm day than suffer through that f-cking lava cake again.”
The retweet by the critic obviously brought other people to Carl’s profile, as he gains over 2000 followers and retweets in a day, bringing even more exposure to the conversation. Chef responds by daring him to come back to the restaurant and try a new menu (the one he wanted to prepare in the first place but that the restaurant owner didn’t let him serve), even though his sous-chef advises him not to.
“That’s out there now bro, you can’t take that back.”
Unfortunately Carl was not able to offer the menu he wanted, and as a result got fired by the restaurant’s owner. Carl decided then to not use social media anymore but instead confronted the critic face to face, in the middle of the restaurant.
As you can expect, this wasn’t the greatest idea our Chef had that day, as dozens of people recorded his public meltdown and uploaded it to social media.
This is a great (if perhaps a little exaggerated) example of how social media can, and will have an impact on a business. Most interactions between a brand and its customers, whether it is Facebook, Twitter or another social media platform will be public. People can and will see it, share it or screenshot it. It is critical that the interactions you have on social media are top notch, as once it is online it will be too late to change it, something that is shown in the movie as well. When our Chef is contacted by a publicist, she explicitly told him:
“It’s out there! Even If I can persuade one site to pull out one clip, there are dozen others from others cellphones. [… ]You threatening them with lawyers builds a story that is already getting a lot of play, and then you get another week of headlines”.
As the videos of Carl’s meltdown are already online, it is just too late; threatening to sue the people who post the videos will only draw more attention to it. Moreover with social media, image and video hosting services, there are just too many places where the videos could be that it would be almost impossible to put all of them down. A real life example of content going viral despite warnings and threats of legal action is the « Fappening »: Hackers stole (using “brute force” password breaking technique) nude and personal pictures from hundreds of celebrities’ iCloud accounts and then leaked the pictures on 4chan Forum. 4chan deleted thread regularly (and the files were not saved on their servers), yet all the pictures and videos were torrented/mirrored on other sites almost immediately so it was absolutely impossible to take them down. The only option was to get their lawyers to issue public warning that the use and distribution of those videos would be pursued “to the full extent of the law”….honestly, who hasn’t seen those videos yet?
Although Carl’s videos were viral right now, the publicist claimed that there was too much white noise, too many news happening at the same time, and the best solution would just be to “sit on it”, wait for it to end as people move on and forget. Now this can be a risky solution depending the situation your business is in: If you’re just not talking about the issue, your customers might complain that you are ignoring them. Moreover if you “sit on it”, try to be absent from social media for a while, you might become part of the clutter, and not be relevant anymore.
The publicist also mentioned that Carl could be doing sponsored tweets, tweets that are promoting a brand or products. Opinions on promoted tweets are fairly divided, as some think this is a quite cheap and fast way to raise awareness over a product, while others think that with followers spread all around the globe your user base is just too diverse to be interesting.
Still, in a timeframe of approximately a week, Carl gained over 20,000 followers on Twitter, a significant number that definitely influenced the success of his food truck in the second part of the movie.
The do’s of social media marketing
With a base of over 20,000 followers, Carl’s son Percy definitely had a great running start to promote the food truck. Percy used Twitter to not only announce that Carl was back at cooking with a food truck, but also used hashtag with the location the food truck was at and a brand hashtag: #ElJefeFoodTruck.
People on Twitter (but also on Instagram) regularly check hashtags related to their locations, whether it is a city, a neighborhood or a country. Using a #SouthBeach hashtag made the food truck easy to find within Miami, for both residents but also tourists that would check this hashtag.
While Carl and his son were using location hashtags to boost their Twitter, the Chef went viral again when a Miami cop recognizes him from Tosh.0, a show on Comedy Central that comments on basically everything going viral online. The cop would then ask our Chef to take pictures with him as if he was one of the top celebrities of the moment! And of course the interaction between Carl and this particular fan was recorded by numerous other phones and shared again, in a kind of snowball effect:
This first stop in Miami would also be the time where Carl’s son Percy would start to use Vine. Vine is a short video sharing platform, and users of this service can record videos up to 6 seconds and share those using hashtags. As this service is owned by Twitter itself, the integration between both is flawless and Vine videos on Twitter just look like a regular tweet. The benefits of using services like Vine or Instagram is simply creating more interactive content for your users. Indeed mouthwatering pictures/videos of “Cubanos” (the sandwich in this movie) will always be better than a simple text description.
It is critical to notice how constant Percy was with choosing both the username and hashtags for these two services. Using the same username for Twitter and Vine actually make senses as users from one service can easily find it on the other, likewise for the hashtag.
While leaving Miami Percy would also use a Facebook page for the food truck, which is able to share both tweets and vines again.
It can be seen from both Vine and Facebook that Percy has updated these pages frequently, with new profile pictures and videos. Percy has also been updating the Twitter account as he would announce where the food truck was at any given time.
Looking at this tweet we can see:
Street name: Frenchmen Street, a major avenue in New Orleans’ touristic area.
Hashtags: #Nola which means New Orleans Louisiana but also #Eljefe, the food truck hashtag that has been used already.
Localized tweet: Right under the picture, users can again see the location, New Orleans Louisiana. In order to do this, you will need to allow access to the your phone localization service.
Once again, through local hashtags and a brand hashtag Carl’s son was able to quickly raise awareness towards the food truck presence in New Orleans, which resulted in a huge line of fans eager to try out Carl’s cuisine, fans that would also tweet, retweet and share their localization with hashtags.
Carl’s last destination, Austin Texas was sure to be a success, thanks to a recurring snowball effect.
Simply before even arriving on Austin’s main boulevard (Congress), fans of the food truck already knew that the Chef was coming to town and retweets, share and hashtags were used again to promote Carl’s successful new venture.
This movie was trully a great example of how social media are used today to promote an organisation or a business. Using relevant (trending, brand and location) hashtags, posting regular updates and fresh and original content (remember that visual content, pictures and vines engages the audience more effectively than text) are all key factors to your success online, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Vine or Instagram.
It is critical to remember that everything said online is public. When answering customer complaints or queries on social media you always have to be careful of repercussions (retweets, screenshots), as even something shared for 30 seconds might have been screenshot already.
One must also remember that while Carl success is unquestionable, he had also a good running start by being a notorious Chef (who cooks really, really appetizing dishes) in a successful restaurant which helped him getting thousands of followers in a mere night. Starting a new venture and building your social media from scratch can be quite time consuming but it is such a direct (and free!) tool to provide content to your prospects that you cannot simply ignore today.
Chef 2014, motion picture, Aldamisa Entertainment, Los Angeles, USA, J favreau.
Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
Chef, a cooking movie with social media recipes, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings