Monday, November 21, 2011

Tweeting about food: Why it's smarter than you think

"I don't want to join Twitter and find out what you ate for lunch."

It's the universal dismissal of Twitter, the suggestion that we only post about what we just ate, as if that were the consummate waste of a reader's time, let alone the poster's time. Why would you want to lallygag around like that?

Right, because you don't ever talk about food at work, home or in between. You don't eat a big breakfast when you're facing a long work day, make deals over lunch, or steal candy from the office jar. You don't line up at that trendy food truck on lunch break, or hit the bar around the corner because their happy hour sliders make your heart sing. You're not dieting or quitting a diet. You don't cook or let others cook for you. You don't ask for seconds, special-order, takeout. You don't gather around the holiday board with your loved ones. No sirree, not you. All business, you are. Without food touching it.

I'm on to those anti-food-tweeters, because that diss sounds like all the other automatic dismissals of Twitter by people who are too afraid to try it--they're just making food the roadkill, so to speak, with a little side-diss of you and your overall tweeting for good measure.

Truth is, not everyone tweets about food. But those who do are accomplishing all sorts of useful and often businesslike, even profitable, things that you're not. And yes, I am one of them. Why? Food might just be the One True Social Media Topic, because it does so many things you already want and need to accomplish in social media circles. Food:
  • Is a universal connector: It's considered one of the most basic needs of humankind, something your stomach tells you on a regular basis. That opens you up to more conversations, being relevant as it is to more people. (You do want to connect and have conversations on social media, right?) Choosing food as one of your topics is as good a bet as any that others will start a chat with you--everyone can relate to food, no matter their position. It works at cocktail parties and networking events, and it works on Twitter. As points of entry go, it's easy. 
  • Gets as complex and intellectual as you wish: Go read what food writer Ruth Reichl's having for breakfast. I dare you. Then engage with Mark Bittman or Marion Nestle on food politics and research. Lately, I'm getting 140-character recipes from master chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Eric Ripert that I can put to use in the kitchen. What you got? That's serious food.
  • Invites information-sharing: A tweet about what you're eating might let me ask for the recipe or a restaurant recommendation, bring me around the corner to your office to see if you'll share, let me tell you about a better/worse/made-by-me dish, discover we both like liver and onions or something else we have in common. (I once worked in an office in which no fewer than six of us turned out to like liver and onions, and we had a memorable lunch of the same that bonded us forever--the few, the proud.)
  • Adds dimension: If you're mostly all-business on Twitter, posting about what or where you're eating lets us see more about you, layering on perspective that makes you multi-dimensional. So much the better if you have a special take on food, whether you cook it, eat it or choose wines to go with it. Even sharing special meals--you're off to an anniversary dinner or have just been honored at a banquet--helps us know you better.
  • Provides an ongoing source of topics: You'll be eating every day, won't you, so you'll have an ever-unfolding array of content if you choose to tweet about food. Food can lead to all sorts of conversational avenues (are you eating, cooking, delivering, producing, inspecting, describing?) as well, which further expands your content options.
  • Cements business deals: My food tweeting--mostly about what I'm cooking--has ferreted out every client or potential client of mine on Twitter who likes to cook or eat well. That means we have more in common, and more reasons to talk. You can keep your cold calls and mailers, my friend. Over here, we're swapping recipes and plotting good meals for the next time we're in the same city. Food-tweeting can lead easily to meetings in real life, and I guarantee the food-tweeter will enjoy better meals on travel, thanks to Twitter pals (yes, @egculbertson, I'm looking at you).
  • If you wish, limits what you share, on safe ground: Being a universal topic also makes food a safe one. I often advise new tweeters who want to balance personal and professional topics on Twitter to pick three personal topics they'd talk to anyone about at a business cocktail party or before a meeting, and food might well be one of them. You can show yourself to be a person, not a bot, more effectively that way. I do it with food, travel and music, myself.
  • Is more than a tweet: As with any social medium, you shouldn't mistake the medium for the content.  People tweet about food because they enjoy making it and eating it, and sometimes, sharing it because they delight in it, want to complain about it, or hope you'll join them. Breaking bread isn't about the breaking, but the bread--and coming together to do it.
If those of us who tweet about food want reassurance, there's the warm and newly open kitchen of Dinnerlist, a new social site that lets you share what you ate for dinner, along with recipes, food experiments and more in open or closed groups you create. Chef Faye Hess of the FayeFood blog--one of my favorite food writers--is behind it. Ready to stop dissing and start tweeting? Next week sees the debut of the updated second edition of The Twitter Book, the best guide going. Pre-order it now. You can find me on Twitter as @dontgetcaught.

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Janice said...

You have converted me Denise. I was anti-food tweeting until I read the wisdom of your post. I must admit I was looking at it from the lens of the Twitter naysayers.

Just finished a lovely perfectly ripe avocado, mango habernero salsa, chickpea chips, and a beautiful, juicy Okanagan Bartlett pear...just saying. :)

Denise Graveline said...

Thanks for sharing--that sounds delicious! You'll be in good company...