By Erin Rigik Del Conte, Senior Editor
For the fifth straight year, Convenience Store Decisions reviewed the Facebook (FB) and Twitter pages of more than 60 c-store chains and is recognizing those going above and beyond in creativity and connection with their fans and followers.
Heading into 2017, if your c-store chain isn’t active on social media, “you need to be.” That’s advice straight from Brienna Pinnow, director of product marketing for targeting, Experian Marketing Services, a global information services company providing analytical tools and data—including social media data.
“That social media is exploding and has the skill and reach to truly influence people is an understatement at this point,” Pinnow said.
Convenience store chains that are not on social media or that merely keep a profile and respond to a few questions are missing a huge opportunity to be an influencer. The key to social influence in 2017 will be to create content, and develop your brand voice and personality.
Now that social media has been around for years, the bar has been raised. It’s time to go beyond focusing on basic metrics of likes, shares and retweets.
“Those are great indicators, but they’re just that. They’re one ingredient in the recipe for a successful social media presence and engagement strategy,” Pinnow said.
The top best practice going into 2017 is to not only post and engage but also listen. But it’s important to listen to your specific audience and learn how to separate it from the “noise” composed of many competing viewpoints on social media.
Pinnow used an example that occurred several years ago with Cracker Barrel to illustrate the point. After a controversy surrounding remarks by the star of Duck Dynasty, Cracker Barrel reacted to the outrage on social media and quickly pulled Duck Dynasty products from its shelves.
Cracker Barrel customers, however, were not happy with that move, and the chain reversed course, putting the products back on shelves. Pinnow pointed out that originally, the chain was hearing the overall noise on social media, but when it listened to its specific customers it realized they still wanted the products despite the controversy.
Using data can help you separate the noise from your audience’s message. Data can reveal who your social fans are and what else they are interested in, which can help your chain better target its messaging.
“Heading into 2017, we’re seeing more companies opt to use third party data to extend their reach on social media,” Pinnow said.
BEYOND MR. CHATTY
In moving beyond retweets and likes, consider that many of your followers may take a more passive approach to social media. Pinnow noted more than half of social media users fall into that category.
“By using data, you can understand who they are even if they’re passive. You can see, that, for example, 88% of my audience is female and married and they have children and they also follow (XYZ Pizza Co.),” Pinnow said. Then you can use that information to your advantage—for example, maybe a pizza promotion or partnership is in order.
The lifestyles and values of even your more silent fans should inspire your content on social media and beyond.
Data can also help you see valuable partnerships, such as in the above pizza example. Observe who your fans are following and the overlapping opportunities that might exist for partnerships.
Social media is often thought of as earned media, built through online word of mouth. But paid media—paying to advertise or to boost a post—can help you extend your reach. Data can help you identify the influencers that spread posts. While they may be different from your target customer, you’ll also want to attract more influencers using paid media to better extend your message.
Data can also help you learn what social media platform your base uses, so you can target your customer base on the platform where they spend the most time.
“Many marketers think ‘I’ll create one message and then I’ll just blast it across all of my different accounts.’ That’s a big no no,” Pinnow said. How you present on Instagram needs to be different from your approach to Twitter, etc. in order to be successful.
Once you determine the platform where your base spends time, encouraging your fans to engage with trivia and either/or questions is a great way to gain fan participation, but Pinnow advised retailers to ensure content is meaningful. Share with your audience how you’re going to use the information they provide, she said.
If, for example, you’re asking customers which candy bar they like best, let them know there will be an in-store promotion or in-app coupon for the winner. Now that they know why their information is needed they may be more invested and respond.
“Help them understand how what they say just changed your business—that’s when it’s meaningful to both sides of the equation,” Pinnow said.
DON’T FORGET CREATIVITY
It’s easy for marketers to get caught up in the execution and overlook the most important part—creativity. Most people want to skip to the metrics of how many posts, like, shares, retweets occurred—but that’s only a small piece of the overall story.
Creativity is a key component to every social media platform regardless of whether your following is big or small today—after all, you’re preparing for tomorrow’s numbers.
“Creativity is the one place where you can stand out and organically begin to grow a larger following and differentiate yourself,” Pinnow said.
One reason creativity is sometimes brushed over is because it’s not easy to constantly create original content.
“When you commit to original creative pieces, they have the ability to live on, go viral and cement your unique brand. This is one piece completely in your control and it can differentiate you,” Pinnow said.
Pinnow’s advice for 2017 is to focus not only on who is seeing your posts, but on what they see.
One recommendation for c-stores is to encourage your fans to create and submit original content, which leading chains like Maverik are doing. From encouraging fans to post photos and videos of themselves in your stores to offering other contests for creative submissions that tie in your voice and branding—it’s a great way to involve your fans.
“When you encourage your fans to create content for you, they feel like they are truly becoming part of your brand,” Pinnow said. It can also be helpful for chains that lack the resources to regularly create unique content.
To download the awards: http://csd2018.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Social-Media.pdf