By Erin Rigik, Senior Editor
Social media is crucial for staying top of mind for customers and driving word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising for your chain, which many customers today trust more than traditional marketing.
Cindy Morrison, social media strategist with social media consulting firm Socialvention, said when people see traditional marketing they are less likely to trust it because they know the company paid for it.
By contrast, if someone they know—or even someone online—gives a positive review of a convenience store, they’re more likely to put stock in that. Therefore, getting people to be your fans on social media and spread your message by WOM can be even more valuable than putting time into traditional marketing.
Engaging with fans in a way that entices them to interact with you and spread your message with WOM is key. Morrison recommended the 80/20 rule when posting on social media.
When posting, “80% is getting people to know, like and trust you, and 20% is sales. That 80% could involve posting photos of your employees, information about community events near or at your c-store, and information like what’s happening with a local fire or how to eat your ice cream cone in the summer before it melts,” Morrison said.
Posts can also sell and inform simultaneously. For example, showcase your fountain program while talking about ways to combine flavors into a delicious drink.
“A lot of times businesses get on social media and think, ‘What do I have to talk about?’ Inform your audience about your business, such as why are c-stores set up this way, or ask them what they like to buy most at your c-stores,” she said.
IMAGES AND HASHTAGS
Eric Rush, digital marketing manager and advertising coordinator, for Whitehouse Station N.J.-based QuickChek, which operates 139 c-stores in New Jersey and New York, has been managing the chain’s social media since the beginning of the year. Like Morrison, he stressed the importance of engaging fans instead of just selling. “The biggest thing is you can’t be nonstop pushing product. You have to look at it like you look at the people you follow on social media. You don’t want to be sold to on every post or you’re going to hide it. It has to be fun and it has to add value for the customer.”
In February, QuickChek had a particularly strong engagement from customers on a ‘Throw Back Thursday’ post, featuring a Photoshop image made up to look like the first QuickChek with the hashtag #tbt.
“We were looking at ways to begin incorporating popular hashtags into our Facebook posts. This is one of the first ones we attempted and it struck a cord. We took this obvious picture of something that wasn’t a QuickChek and made it look like one. We added our logo to a shack from the 1800s Wild West. Maybe some people thought it actually was our first store, and then found out it wasn’t, but for whatever reason it just really took off. The post also wasn’t pushing any product. It wasn’t a promotion. It was just a fun, playful engaging post,” Rush said.
And engage people did. The post reached 4,116 people, and gained a combined 209 likes, shares and comments.
The chain is also implementing other fun posts on a weekly basis. “We just did our first ‘Women Crush Wednesday’ and ‘Man Crush Monday,’ both of which feature employees who won yearly awards and show a little more behind the scenes,” Rush said. Weekly coupons have also been a big hit with fans.
QuickChek also stays abreast of news and images going viral so it can jump on popular conversations and engage with fans on topics they are already talking about. “We have a calendar we lay out listing what we plan to hit on via social media, but there is room to remove one and replace it with something going viral,” Rush said. For example, when a video of two llamas who escaped from the zoo went viral, QuickChek’s Facebook page was quick to set up a QuickPoll to ask customers “Why did the #llamas cross the road?”
When the dress some people saw as blue/black and others as white/gold was trending, QuickChek posted a photo of its coffee, with the message, “whether your dress is #whiteandgold or #blackandpurple a QuickChek coffee will get your Friday going in the right direction,” as well as a photo of two different colored coffees—one white and gold, one black and blue. The chain also posted live on Facebook throughout the SuperBowl.
QuickChek is also engaging fans with interactive questions and pertinent information. For example, it encouraged fans to weigh in on if they preferred pistachio or hazelnut coffee, and when a fire broke out in a strip mall near a local QuickChek the chain was able to quell the rumor mill by offering timely information to local residents.
QuickChek is also turning its attention to Instagram and Twitter, which Rush noted helps the chain engage with different demographics. Instagram skews toward younger Millennials and Generation Z, while Twitter contains more older Millennials, is more interactive and happens faster, in real time, compared to Facebook.
On Facebook, Morrison noted, Power Editor is helping businesses set up ad campaigns to target a specific market. Power Editor is an advanced tool offered by Facebook to assist businesses in managing multiple campaigns and ads across the platform. “So if you want to target customers near a specific store, or in a specific price bracket, you can be very specific,” Morrison explained.
While Morrison has yet to see much traction with Twitter ads so far, the majority of people who interact with brands do so on Twitter. Twitter now offers Twitter Cards, which allow businesses to add photos, video and media experience to Tweets in order to drive traffic to their Websites. Once the business adds a few lines of HTML to the Website, when users Tweet links to the site’s content a “card” is added to the Tweet, which is visible to their followers.
“If using Twitter, look for people on Twitter in your area, for whom you are convenient, and follow those people and interact with them. On Facebook this is harder because if you’re a business page you don’t have as many rights to interact with people. So you can’t really reach out unless someone comments and then you comment back,” Morrison said.
While more of your target audience might be on Facebook, people are much more likely to engage with businesses on Twitter. If someone mentions you on Twitter, you can immediately interact with them, Morrison pointed out.
Morrison noted that Snap Chat could pick up more traction going forward for businesses now that McDonald’s has started using it. Instagram, which combines video and photo posts, meanwhile, is less about promotion and “more about getting your customers to know, like and trust you and the fun side of your business.”
“There’s a way to get your customers to like your page, which we call fangate, where they have to like your page to participate in your contest,” Morrison said.
A simple posted trivia contest, such as “Guess how many gallons of gas we sold yesterday,” can be enough to keep people engaging and interacting with your page. “If someone doesn’t engage with your page in 90 days, chances are (based on Facebook’s algorithm) you will fall out of their newsfeed,” Morrison said. Giving away small prizes, be it a free soda or a gas card, can keep customers engaging and commenting, which can keep you on their newsfeed and top of mind.
“If you are in their feed, they are much more likely to head your way. Convenience stores are somewhere people go because they’re convenient, but sometimes people go out of their way to go to the places they know,” she said. Many c-stores expect staff to smile at people when they enter the store and greet them. “You also need to do that on Facebook,” she said.
Hashtags are another great way to run a contest. On Instagram, set up a hashtag that has to do with gas or summer photos and have weekly contests with a prize for the best photo. Prizes can also be a way to drive customers back to the store to collect their free soda or baked good.