January 1, 2018 |

Man on the Street: Keeping the Social in Social Media

By Scott Wiener

#pepcups, instagram, social media

Operators are starting to realize the benefits of using their platforms to communicate

scott wiener, professional pizza eater, man on the street columnist, pizza box record holder, scott's pizza tours

Scott Wiener

Founder, Scott’s Pizza Tours and SliceOutHunger.org

Do you remember when social media first landed? Lots of us thought it a fad at worst and a chore at best. Pizzerias labored over drab posts advertising daily specials or photos of featured pies. Communications were aimed at current customers with hopes that shares would spread the good word to their friends — making it just another marketing tool pizzerias felt required to use in order to stay competitive in their markets. But times have changed and operators are starting to realize the benefits of using their platforms to communicate with an even more beneficial population: other operators.

I see it most clearly on Instagram. A pizza maker in Colorado posts a photo of her dough. Another pizza maker, from Vermont, chimes in with words of praise and a question about the dough’s fermentation. The original poster then responds with the appropriate information, likely after scanning the Vermont pizza maker’s photo feed and responding with thoughts of her own. Both start viewing and commenting on each other’s posts, looping in their respective friends and colleagues when beneficial. A network of like-minded colleagues develops because two pizza makers on opposite sides of the country, who probably would have never met in person, exchanged ideas using a medium that didn’t exist eight years ago. That’s pretty amazing!

This kind of visual idea exchange has already led to incredibly fast trend explosions. Photogenic foods like cup-and-char pepperoni (#ronicups) and Detroit-style pizza are all over photo sharing platforms, which is likely to have aided in their rise in popularity over the last few years. It’s not just a culinary resonance; marketing ideas are also available in online exchanges. I can’t tell you how many similar memes I’ve seen across the pizzeria accounts I follow. It’s great to see how one pizzeria’s post resonates on others, but I cringe when I see direct plagiarism.

Advancements in video have easily become my favorite use of social media. Both Facebook and Instagram have live video options and both Instagram and Snapchat have features that let users post short videos or images that disappear after 24 hours without appearing on the permanent timeline. These temporary posts are great because their lack of permanence removes the pressure of what is often a carefully curated main timeline. I love seeing how operators choose to open windows into their kitchens with social media video, using it to demonstrate an unusual process or give behind-the-scenes glimpses into their company’s culture. When I see how much attention you give your product via social video, I’ll probably recommend your pizzeria even if I haven’t been there myself.

Not only does this inspire other operators to attempt a new technique, it’s also an easy way for the public to identify with your business on a personal level. You’re not just food, you’re a team of people.

If you’re still only using your social media platforms for obligatory happy hour posts and daily pizza specials, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to participate in a supportive online community. The pizza industry has officially ditched the romance of secret recipes and guarded secrets in favor of inclusivity and open idea exchange. The door is unlocked; all you have to do is open it.

Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.