Why Social Engagement Means More Than Likes

Convenience retailers with a strong social media presence are engaging online communities in new and exciting ways. 

September 16, 2020

By Chris Blasinsky

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—With social media, the opportunities, techniques and methods for telling stories are boundless, and oftentimes the proverbial rules of traditional media do not apply.​

Digital marketing analytics firm Rival IQ recently tracked social media engagement among 20 convenience retailers and revealed some interesting digital insights.

“Standout convenience store marketing transcends geographic limitations by smartly captivating audiences on social networks. We turned to the data to discover how best-in-class performers remain top of mind among target audiences,” noted the firm on its website.

Here are two social media trends among convenience retailers that Rival IQ observed: 

  1. Partnerships for a cause

To “surprise and delight fans,” convenience retailers often team up with industry brands to support a cause. For example, Kum & Go and Budweiser partnered to produce a limited-edition t-shirt and tank top.

The shirts reflect Budweiser’s partnership with Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to family members of military personnel who have fallen or been disabled in combat while serving in the U.S. armed forces. By turning to social media to promote the shirts and program at large, Rival IQ noted that the campaign produced a significant engagement rate for Kum & Go, along with 4,600 likes on Twitter.

“This partnership is about celebrating our country and two iconic American brands while creating a fun way to support our veterans,” said Tanner Krause, president of Kum & Go.

Ohio-based convenience store United Dairy Farmers partners with USL Championship soccer club FC Cincinnati to raise awareness for the team’s philanthropic arm, the FC Cincinnati Foundation.

The retailer leveraged “mouth-watering product shots on social media” of its Caramel Pretzel Kick ice cream, the official ice cream of the soccer club, to encourage customers to make a purchase. A percentage of each sale goes to the FC Cincinnati Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of children in the Greater Cincinnati area by playing soccer.

“These types of posts are popular among fans because customers can score a sweet treat while also supporting their local team and community,” said Rival IQ.

  1. Going the Extra Mile

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Love’s expressed its gratitude for another group of essential businesses—truck drivers—who were going the extra mile and delivering products and goods to retailers and consumers across the United States. Teaming up with vendors, Love’s relied on its social platforms to offer truck drivers a $5 coupon as a token of appreciation that could be used at any Love’s for in-store purchases, per Rival IQ.

In terms of employment, 7-Eleven used social media to promote current job openings. The retailer noted in March that it expected tens of thousands of new store employees to be hired to meet increased demand for 7‑Eleven products and services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“7‑Eleven is a neighborhood store and it’s our priority to serve the communities in which we operate during this unprecedented crisis,” said 7‑Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto. “Between 7‑Eleven Inc. and our franchised business owners, we expect as many as 20,000 store employees to be hired in the coming months. This will provide job opportunities and ensure 7‑Eleven stores remain clean and in-stock with the goods our customers need during this critical time.”

Social Leaders

Rival IQ evaluated 20 convenience stores profiled in its 2020 C-Store Digital Ranking and rated their social media performance on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter relative to audience, activity, engagement and top content over a six-month period. The firm defines engagement as measurable interaction on social media posts: likes, comments, favorites, retweets, shares and reactions.

Kwik Trip ranked as the front-runner, with retailers like Sheetz, Kum & Go and QuikTrip close behind. Rival IQ notes that one of the reasons why Kwik Trip performs so well on social is that the company knows its audience and knows its fans “have a strong allegiance to the brand and a competitive spirit…Most of all, they know they talk about their KT passion among friends in person and on social media.”

David Jackson, digital marketing and loyalty manager at Kwik Trip, told Rival IQ that the company does “a lot of listening and community management to see what our followers are excited about when they visit a Kwik Trip. There’s even a Facebook Group called the Wisconsin Kwik Trip Enthusiast Club created by our fans which we actively pull inspiration from. …Our fans as a collective are infinitely more creative and humorous than us, so we’re always looking for ways to amplify their voices rather than our own. This results in easier content for us and ultimately more relatable content for our fans.”

Communications Tips

A communications strategy amplifies what retailers already do every day when talking about their business and telling stories that support their core values and brand. From crafting a press release to social media engagement, NACS communications resources provide insights and tips for convenience retailers to enhance, refresh or develop communication strategies.

Also, be on the lookout for the upcoming October issue of NACS Magazine, where author Renee Pas delves into how social media followers are falling in love (or like!) with convenience retail brands that create connections through humor, values and authenticity in messaging.

Chris Blasinsky is the NACS content communications strategist; she can be reached at cblasinsky@convenience.org, and on Twitter and LinkedIn.