I recently watched Chef, and although it might not be the best film in the world, as a digital marketer I was particularly interested in how social media was used throughout as the main driver of the storyline.

In summary, head chef Carl Casper gets ordered by his boss and restaurant owner to cook the same old menu for a special showcase evening to which a famous food critic and blogger has been invited, despite having created an inspired tasting menu set to wow that night’s diners. After the critic pans the food, reviews go viral on Twitter. Knowing nothing about the platform, Casper joins and DMs the critic, challenging him to come another night and calling him a nasty name. He later finds out it was not a DM. There ensues a public row on Twitter, ending in Casper going on a huge and very public rant in front of the critic and the whole restaurant – which is filmed, goes viral and practically ends his career. His solution? To refit and old food truck and tour America selling what he does best – traditional Mexican food. His son joins him on the journey, and unbeknownst to his father chronicles and promotes their journey in a series of tweets and Facebook posts, helping to build a massive following and resulting in huge queues awaiting their arrival at each new destination.

Video clip of the film:

It’s quite a heartwarming film in the end, but what struck me the most is how well social media was used without being the main antagonist in the film – this film could well be a beginners guide to social media for any company or brand. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to spend two hours watching it, here are my five key takeaways:

1. If an expert advises against it, they’re probably right

At one point clueless Casper pens a tweet which his son advises is probably best not sent… and he sends it anyway, causing the row to blow up even further. Lesson: if you’re unsure or inexperienced, seek and listen to the advice of others.

2. Cameras are everywhere

A critical plot point, Casper goes apoplectic at the food blogger, giving him more than a piece of his mind. His meltdown is of course filmed. Whilst of course he knew he had an audience, what he failed to appreciate was that the original audience would grow to huge proportions, and his meltdown would live forever in Internet-land. Lesson: think before you post – especially if emotions are running high.

3. Sometimes it’s best when it just comes naturally

Caspers film-son is 10 or 11, and he totally owns the social media presence for the food truck. Whilst he’s not known a world without Facebook or Twitter, he doesn’t even think about social media strategy or anything like that – because using the platform comes naturally to him. Luckily, the posts are perfectly suited to the business and audience, which pays off big. Of course, what works for one brand won’t always work for another, but generally if you have to think too hard about what to post and share and when, it’s probably not going to hit the mark as well as you might hope. Lesson: bad social media can be worse than no social. Whilst you need to think about what channels fit your brand best, it’s also important to consider what knowledge and skills you or your team possess.

4. Embrace it

Throughout the film, Casper could easily decline to get involved, citing that he doesn’t know what’s going on with the social channels or what the deal is. Instead, he gets stuck right in. Being ‘a good sport’, at one point a cop requests that he poses for an outrageous number of increasingly ridiculous photos with him. Whilst inconvenient and baffling to him at the time, it does help his brand – giving it personality and some cracking content. Lesson: social media isn’t going anywhere, and hiding your head in the sand does not mean it doesn’t exist; it’s hungry for content and the more people that get on board the better.

5. Engage

If there’s one point at which I feel this film, and many companies in fact, fall down, it’s with social engagement. Sure, it’s probably not necessary to show replies and conversations in a film to get the gist of the social media helping them make it big, but lots of companies fail to interact with their consumers and fans on Twitter, Facebook and the like. ‘Liking’ and ‘favourite-ing’ posts is no substitute for having conversations with people when it comes to developing relationships and positive brand perception. Lesson: engaging with people on social media gives your company a third dimension; a human side. Done well this can help your company’s popularity grow exponentially.

Have you seen any films that have inspired new or different ways of using social media for your brand? Do you have any top tips, or are you struggling to hit the right tone in your posts? Leave a comment below or get in touch!