Being a media correspondent for Eat St on the Food Network has not only extended the reach for Stitches ‘n Dishes, it’s been an enlightening experience. Eat St. is a unique television show – a social experiment of sorts. Paperny Entertainment, the show’s producer, partnered with Invoke Media, the maker of the popular HootSuite social media dashboard application, to create a mobile app that connects Eat St fans with the show, and ultimately to food carts and food trucks in a very interactive way. The Paperney / Invoke Media partnership integrates the mobile app with the TV show, and extends to social networks where television is confronted with a host of new opportunities that allow viewers to interact with the show from their computers or mobile devices.

Interactive TV has been around for quite some time. Talk shows began taking calls from viewers on the air back in the ’70′s. Many reality TV shows today utilize cell phone voting systems to get the viewing public involved, and be a part of the show.

Food Network and Invoke Media utilize a blog as the core of the social network, which includes a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube channel and Pinterest account. A group of media correspondents write for the blog, providing enhanced content that relates to the TV show. The show’s media team, led by Lima Al-Azzeh share the blog content across their social networks, and they actively engage in conversations on Twitter during episode air times. Those Twitter conversations are later curated using Storify and shared in blog posts.

By combining social network channels, the show’s Twitter following grew to nearly 10,000 followers over the last eight months, more than doubling the number of followers they had when I started following them myself.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a few of my fellow Food Network, Eat St Media Correspondents about how the lines between television, social networks / blogging and mobile apps are blurring and increasing fan engagement.

“I’ve been involved in dozens of online groups and even managed a few, so I know the power of Internet communities. I’m also a member of my employer’s social media customer care team, which has given me a new appreciation for what social media can do.” Kim M. Bayne, Eat St. Media Correspondent and  founder of Tucson, Arizona-based, Street Food Files

By day, Kim creates help screens for software and mobile apps. Kim’s background includes authoring books on digital marketing, writing for industry publications, managing marketing communications projects, and hosting a syndicated public radio talk show, and she loves collecting recipes and sharing them on Pinterest.

Lima formulated a diverse group of serious, professional bloggers, each with different backgrounds to orchestrate the very collaborative Food Network, Eat St blog. When those authors each write for their own, and other blogs, the Eat St blog reach extends yet further.

“I enjoy working with Eat St as well as some other local blogs in Ottawa and Toronto that have picked up some of my articles over the past few months,” said Eat St. Media Correspondent, Kathy Ferguson, founder of Kathy Eats, based in Ottowa, Canada. When Kathy isn’t seeking out an exotic mobile cuisine, she’s a Parole Officer for adult male federal offenders. “I’ll eat just about anything; I love pushing the envelope when it comes to foods that are considered strange and unusual,” and she means it.

But, I think that Eat St. Media Correspondent, Tony Yamanaka, founder of Food Trailers Austin sums the Eat St collaborative blog space best.

“In a market where push strategies are no longer effective, I think Eat St. really embraced the mentality of co-creation. We as representatives of our regions are able to provide an influx of knowledge to a central source. The platform that’s been provided and the level of interaction that is allowed is amazing and extremely beneficial for all.” Tony Yamanaka




Socially interactive show-related content doesn’t only benefit the network and producer. Of course, Media Correspondents extend their blog reach, and have bragging rights about being a part of a Food Network production, and featured trucks directly benefit from an increased fan engagement, and ultimately increased fan bases for themselves.

Eat St. Media Correspondent, Stephanie Hawkes, founder of DFW Food Truck Foodie has been the front runner in mobile food blogging in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. “I was the first blogger to publish a summary of [an] event and it went viral, immediately. It was not until [months later], when a local TV station interviewed me about the food trucks that most of the trucks found out that one of their best customers was also blogging about them.”

Television has become another social network channel and powerful social media tool, and the Eat St. model could very well be the new recipe for success. Collaborative blogging as part of an interactive TV and social media strategy seems to work well for this television show. An integrated approach to a social media marketing strategy for any campaign, including food truck and food stand marketing, increases fan base, fan loyalty and converts fans into customers far more effectively than any single tool could.

“Many [food truck and food stand owners] don’t realize the impact social media tools can have on their businesses — both good and bad. Twitter and Facebook can get people to their food trucks and food stand, and Yelp can keep them away,” said Washington DC Eat St. Media Correspondent, Kate G, founder of DC Truck Review.

The beauty of Social Media Marketing is that you don’t need to be a television network or large corporation to find and interact with customers, and the right mix of social media tools can benefit any food truck or food stand. It’s not as simple as creating a Facebook or Twitter account, then waiting for the masses to appear.

“There’s no question that social media has changed the marketing landscape and somewhat leveled the playing field for small businesses. Many small business owners don’t make a deliberate effort to plan out their marketing programs well enough in advance,” said Kim Bayne. “Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites have been a godsend in this regard. Social Media is perfectly suited to “seat-of-the-pants, on-the-fly” promotion, which is how most food trucks operate anyway.”

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About the Author

Chris Ford is the founder of Stitches 'n Dishes and editor in chief with a passion for food, photography and travel. Chris is a Media Correspondent for the Food Network TV show, Eat St, a syndicated blogger, seasoned event organizer and promoter, a food critic, a marketing consultant and Social Media Marketing expert. Chris is also a fashion and entertainment photographer. When he's not dining on the sidewalk, he's snapping photos on the catwalk.