Ten Social Media Lessons From the Movie “Chef”

Chef the new comedy movie that premiered recently is a great case study on how social media can destroy and build up reputations.Some call the movie “food porn”, others a documentary on how to make a good cheese toastie or is it a giant product placement for Twitter?Sure the movie features a strong lineup of Hollywood A-List stars, including Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, and Robert Downey, Jr and a soft feel good storyline.But what it did for me though was make me hungry and make a beeline for the first food truck I saw in my hometown of Perth.In fact, I went surfing at the glorious Leighton Beach on a Sunday morning soon after seeing the movie and there was a Brazilian food truck there called Comida do Sul.I couldn’t help but stop and have something to eat based on the movie experience!New media technology has long been fodder for Hollywood movie makers.Think You’ve Got Mail in 1998 and its narrative on the way digital communication could impact lives.Meanwhile, blogging was brought centre stage with Julia and Juliet.Now Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Vine are central to this movie and the concept of shared experiences.Chef is the story of a man whose life is ruined and then redeemed by social media.The movie represents digital communication onscreen in an elegant and simple way as onscreen tweets materialize in the air and then, when sent, fly off like a bird.Chef is written, produced and directed by Jon Favreau who plays the main character Carl.Here are 10 Lessons from Social Media from the Movie:1. Twitter is Not Like Texting or EmailThe story goes that Chef Carl is an aging Generation Xer who lives his life mostly offline.He has an email account and knows what YouTube is, but he doesn’t understand how social media works or what its value is.This becomes apparent after he fires off what he thinks is a private tweet to a food critic who gave him a particularly vicious and personal review.In real life Favreau considers himself “pretty savvy” with social media-he maintains an active Twitter account with 1.7 million followers.Compare this to his onscreen counterpart Carl who is completely unschooled in exactly how public an ill-considered tweet can become.2. ViralThere are four types of media – paid (advertising), owned (your own created content/websites), earned (PR) and shared (social).The first two are controlled media where you control every image and message.The second two are uncontrolled and this presents a risk.With PR you can try and reduce the risk by writing a media release and doing media training but when social media goes viral you have no control over its distribution and what comments will be made.In the movie, Carl’s obscene rant goes viral, and an online war of words ensues.3. Don’t Rant in PublicWe’re seeing the rise in citizen journalism where anyone with a mobile phone and internet access can create media content unfiltered.The scene where Carl angrily confronts the critic at his restaurant, leading to a meltdown that’s captured on video and uploaded to YouTube, where millions view it is central to the plot.It was amusing to see people at the restaurant capturing the moment on mobile phones and iPads.After the very public meltdown, no one is willing to hire Carl. It appears that social media has ruined his life.4. AmplifiesWhen content is captured on social media it is a lasting record and can be both shared and viewed over and over again.The experience of conceiving of, considering and sending a Tweet is cleverly depicted in the movie.”It’s a multiplier. It will multiply whatever you’re doing,” says Favreau in a media interview.”Like when you embarrass yourself. We all have our bad moments, but most of them happen behind closed doors. When that’s on public display, that’s what is going to define you. In the same way [when] you’re doing something good you want to share… You’re sharing it not only with your friends or the person whose hand you’re holding, but-if you hit on something very special-maybe with an entire culture.”5. PermanentThis is the scary part about social media.It is a permanent record but that is also a strength.In __Chef__ social media plays a role in both the main character’s downfall and eventual redemption, but the new technology is seen in generally a positive way.The movie portrays in an accurate way the permanence of Twitter and Facebook posts.6. Builds VisibilityNow coming to the positives about social media.When Chef Carl leaves behind the stuffy, high-pressure environment of the upscale dining world demanded by owner Dustin Hoffman, he opens a food truck and re-discovers his authentic passion for central American food.He and his son take the truck on a tour of great American food cities like New Orleans and Austin.At each stop, lines of customers greet them because Carl’s son had been documenting the journey and tweeting the truck’s location and uploading pics of the food to Instagram.That social media promotion helps his new business succeed in a big way.It turns his negative celebrity YouTube fame into a positive.The scene on the Miami beachfront with the police officer is a little unrealistic but highlights how YouTube fame works in mysterious ways.7. Attracts CustomersThe mobile nature of a food truck versus the stationary anchor of a traditional restaurant lends itself to letting fans know where your next location will be.It is like the traditional musical chime from a Mr Whippy ice cream van as it drives through the suburbs.In the movie, Carl’s son uses social media to attract customers, an absolute necessity to keep their fans informed of their exact location.8. VisualMany people don’t get the fact that social media is primarily a visual medium.The movie really is a visual feast of beautifully presented food.The use of visual sharing platform Instagram captures this perfectly in the movie.9. VideoThe power of YouTube is central to the movie.Also a new technology, a mobile app called Vine makes its Hollywood debut as Carl’s son creates and posts short looping video clips that document the road trip.10. Personal GrowthIf you are still cynical about social media as a way of driving new customers then this movie will dispel all those myths.It presents the pros and cons of social media in a business context that is easy to understand and easy on the eye.In essence the main premise of the movie is that social media is a great platform for personal growth – to learn from your mistakes and move on.