eSpotlight - Kogi BBQ Fires Up Business With TwitterJuly 2009 By Joe Keenan
For startup Korean food merchant Kogi BBQ, mobile marketing is quite literal. You see, the company is on wheels. The Los Angeles-based company, which launched last November as a roving taco truck, has gained a cult-like following in its brief existence, thanks in large part to its extensive use of Twitter as a marketing tool.
Without a brick-and-mortar retail location — or an e-commerce site for that matter — to sell its unique mix of Korean BBQ with tacos and tortillas, Kogi needed an inexpensive, real-time tool to communicate with customers. Forget for a moment about the brand-building power of Twitter, which
it also takes advantage of; Kogi needed the medium to simply alert potential customers as to where it had set up shop for the day.
“If you’re a taco truck that moves around and doesn’t have a set location, how do you mobilize your audience?” asks Mike Prasad,
Kogi’s brand/new media director. “Our audience — short of having a street corner — has no venue. We don’t have a stand-still restaurant, a venue to connect with our audience, outside of them being at the truck when they want to eat. Twitter solves a lot of those problems. It allows us to broadcast out the location. It also gives our audience a kind of ad-hoc venue in which to talk, discuss and connect [i.e., build the brand]. It really was like, ‘What would be the right tool for all the problems we had to solve?’ And Twitter did that.
“When you’re a new company, you don’t have money, you don’t have numbers,” Prasad adds. “The only thing you really have is your product and your brand. Social media is a good way to combine those and get your message out there.”
But it took a lot of effort on Kogi’s part to spread its message. In fact, Kogi’s first couple of weeks in business typically only saw 10 to 20 customers visiting its truck.
Then Prasad began tweeting his many Twitter followers to come out and try the food — in many cases for free — in exchange for talking about their experiences on Twitter, which they did.
“Within two weeks we had this buzz going on, ‘What’s this food that everyone’s talking about?’” Prasad says. “We went from having to hustle people to a truck to literally having a two-hour line. All the buzz of Kogi started on Twitter; that’s how people started hearing about us.”
Kogi measures ROI from Twitter by how many people come to its trucks and tweet about Kogi. It determined that people who engage the company via Twitter are likely to engage in real life. That spillover rate is Kogi’s core metric, Prasad says. Kogi also tracks the number of followers it has on Twitter, the number of “retweets” and conversations that branch from its Twitter stream.
Besides marketing, providing a venue and creating buzz, Kogi also uses Twitter to get feedback from customers and create conversations.
Frequent and timely responses to customer feedback have been crucial for growth, Prasad says.
“A lot of businesses think, ‘Oh, we’ll go on Twitter and we’ll get tons of traffic.’ It doesn’t work that way. It’s all about putting in effort.”
In addition to responding to customers’ questions, requests and complaints, Kogi uses Twitter to alert its followers to specials and menu changes. This ongoing conversation empowers Kogi’s audience members, Prasad says, making them feel like they’re part of the company, brand and process. And in turn, it drives them to tell friends about the company, keeping the Kogi wheels moving.