“Why a founder needs to be highly aware of trends as they pop up” With Pokeworks Co-founder Kevin Hsu & Candice Georgiadis
One story I would say isn’t really a mistake, but more of a funny coincidence, was when the new “Pokémon Go” mobile app game came out. There were a lot of correlations between Pokéworks and Pokémon, even to the point of media reaching out to us for comment. To our surprise, we did start getting a good amount of Pokémon Go players to our store to catch Charmander. This did help attract a new audience for us, which ultimately taught us the lesson that we need to be highly aware of trends as they come up and to be ready to act on them immediately.
I had the pleasure to interview Kevin Hsu, the Co-founder of Pokeworks
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Social Media platforms have exponentially become the single most important marketing tool to utilize to channel brands to the “right” audiences. So, it was only natural (not only for Pokéworks, but what I believe a large percentage of marketers out there) to either adapt or be left in the dust.
For me, social marketing truly started at Pokéworks with social marketing our first store in Midtown. Our product being very photogenic with the vibrant colors and the different combinations and textures, immediately became “Instagrammable” and something that was readily shared amongst friends, family and colleagues.
In 2015, Instagram was just starting to be more prevalent for food influencers, therefore between myself and Pokéworks’ other co-founders, we would constantly seek out ways to benefit from the platform, A/B testing different content strategy, and keep track of analytics like a hawk to find better ways to reach new followers and engage with our existing fanbase.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?
Honestly, I don’t believe in anyone being an authority on social media marketing, mainly because the platform is ever-changing. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter will always have new features and tools that change the game on how audiences consume content. There is always that constant challenge of finding a pattern that achieves goals based on the newest ways that audiences receive content and engage in the digital space.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
When we first started at our first NYC location, we had setup a “Instagram your Creation” wall, which would feature Pokéworks fans’ poke bowl creations on the wall. Of course, this wasn’t the most technologically advanced way to feature fan photos, but it did inspire eaters that came into our restaurant to take a picture of their order and share.
From there, office colleagues, friends and family started noticing these colorful photos on their feed, which inspired them to race over to try Pokéworks for themselves. Soon after, these photos started garnering attention from national media, including a foodie video showing our Poke Burrito creation that went viral in 2016, resulting in 50+ million views across the world. From there, we knew we had to accelerate our knowledge on social media in order to continue nationwide growth expansion.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One story I would say isn’t really a mistake, but more of a funny coincidence, was when the new “Pokémon Go” mobile app game came out. There were a lot of correlations between Pokéworks and Pokémon, even to the point of media reaching out to us for comment. To our surprise, we did start getting a good amount of Pokémon Go players to our store to catch Charmander. This did help attract a new audience for us, which ultimately taught us the lesson that we need to be highly aware of trends as they come up and be ready to act on them immediately.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
Each social media platform appeals to different audiences for different purposes. For the food and restaurant industry specifically, Instagram rises above the rest as it is more of a visual outlet. Our target audience as a restaurant brand can be easily reached via Instagram vs. other platforms since our concept is highly visual. For this reason, Instagram allows us to easily share our core product with our target audience.
Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Build Your Audience: Share your content on Instagram through your own channel, but also share across by hashtag or collaborating with other influencers. All these avenues are great building up brand presence. At Pokéworks, we value influencer relationships and encourage influencers to visit our restaurants as these influencers can play a vital role in furthering brand awareness.
2. Listen to Your Customers: Provide an open channel for feedback. We have learned first-hand that when you engage in two-way communication with your customers, you open the door to receiving unique insight into your customer preferences of the brand, product and overall experience.
3. Engage, Engage, Engage: Although it’s important to constantly reach new audiences, it is just as important, if not more to keep an active two-way engagement with your audience as well. When you engage with your audience, you can establish loyalty amongst your customers and audience.
4. Content with Intent: If your brand has a cause or mission statement, it is important to be transparent with that upfront and keep it consistent with your social media posts and stories. Your mission does not have to be in every post, but you must ensure your audience understands what your brand is all about.
5. Insights in the Details: Although Instagram can improve on providing more analytics capabilities, it is important to track very closely on how each of your posts performs and determine how it can improve in future posts. We have learned that if you don’t review analytics and insights, you will never be able to grow your social presence or your brand.
6. Instagram Stories vs. Posts: We are beginning to see more engagement with stories, but it is still important to keep posts going just the same as your posts to keep your brand relevant and visual so long as they are regularly shared. Stories offer unique engagement tools to gather feedback from your audiences which can be critical to brand and social presence development.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I personally strive to be conscious of the food that I eat and conscious of what I am putting into my body. I appreciate when restaurant brands have transparency with their customers in terms of the food being served. Healthy eating is not just a trend, but a necessity to ensure you are eating something that is good for your body. At Pokéworks, we are striving to deliver more clarity on the sourcing practices we have with every item we serve. Brands like Sweetgreen, which I personally admire, are on the forefront of this and we believe we can do our part to encourage healthier lifestyles.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
This is more of a personal request, but if either Danny Meyer, for the great successes with growing Shake Shack from simple ‘burger + fries’ concept to a worldwide brand, or Eddie Huang, for the similarities in backgrounds growing up and being a key influencer for Asian American entrepreneurs out there (and being a Taiwanese 1st generation as well). I would love to just be able to kick it with them.