LAS VEGAS -- You can sell anything on social media, even pickled eggs, and you can have fun doing it.
That was the theme of the Be-Friending Social Media session Oct. 7 at the 2018 NACS Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, presented by employees from Salt Lake City-based Maverik.
- Maverik is No. 27 in CSP's 2018 Top 202 ranking of convenience-store chains by number of company-owned retail outlets.
Successful social-media marketing does not have to require a ton of time, money and resources. An effective social-media program, which connects with fans and encourages them to interact with the brand, can be accomplished with minimal funds and one or two dedicated and creative employees. Or, as Nitro Rogalski, social media manager for Maverik, said, “If I can sell pickled eggs in thousands of quantities through texting and throwing videos on YouTube, anything is possible these days.”
Click through for more on social media, pickled eggs, and creating a winning social-media program from nothing …
On pickled eggs
“Who else sells pickled eggs in their stores?” Rogalski said. A few attendees cautiously raised their hands.
After boldly proclaiming his affection for the vinegary snack, Rogalski said he used to work as a store manager on the 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift at another gas station before he worked for Maverik. This was also before social media.
This was the age of the Blackberry phone, when videos sent via text were bad quality and had to be very short to transmit. But even with these limited digital resources, Rogalski made corny videos promoting store products, including pickled eggs. He also took pictures of customers with the store’s pickled eggs and posted the pictures on a board in the store.
As ridiculous as it sounds, the strategy worked. The year before Rogalski started his pickle board and videos, the store sold 124 pickled eggs. The next year, it sold 5,000 pickled eggs.
More with less
The Maverik team had plenty of examples of how to go far with a low budget. Sure, putting money behind Facebook posts can help attract more eyeballs, but the important part is to simply put something out there. “Five dollars on a post will take you a pretty long way,” said Mo Bridge, social-media specialist for Maverik.
Bridge and Rogalski are the brains and the face, respectively, behind Maverik’s entire social-media strategy, and they usually keep their content generation simple. As an example, Rogalski pointed out a short clip showing him emerging from a thick haze with two cans of Mountain Dew White Label.
“This looks cool, right? Good production? It’s not. This is a beer cave and a fog machine that I bought for myself,” said Rogalski. Maverik put together a winning social-media strategy with very little resources, and other c-store chains can do the same.
Connect with customers
Bridge said it is critical that all customer complaints are answered within 24 hours, or else the customer feels ignored. She also said Twitter is the platform where customers seem to complain the most.
But connecting with customers through social media means more than just responding well to complaints. On social media, customers are the greatest salespeople—so much so that some brands offer customers with plenty of followers gift cards or other perks for posting videos a few times a week that advertise store items.
Stores can also work closely with store influencers. One family with a child with Down syndrome regularly posted online about the wonderful effects hiking as a family had on everyone’s emotional well-being. They were already Maverik customers when Bridge reached out to see if Maverik could shoot a short video with the family. They agreed, and the result is a short but heartwarming video about what this family does to bond. “Without social media, I never would have found her,” Bridge said.
The video with the hiking family showed them eating a Maverik lunch. It’s a soft sell, but it is more effective because it is not trying to push a product on a website where people go to check up on their friends and unwind.
Connect with employees
Social media is also a great way to recognize special employees. Rogalski and Bridge noticed that plenty of customers regularly posted about a great employee named Michael, so Rogalski surprised Michael at the store where he works and gave him a pair of Bluetooth speaker sunglasses—on camera, of course.
Not only was Michael’s reaction priceless, complete with dancing and yelling, but he also executed a very intense and slightly hilarious sales pitch for Maverik’s rewards program for the camera. Then he stated the exact same pitch again, but in Spanish.
The video had a ton of customer engagement. Even better, Michael was promoted shortly thereafter.
Tips and tricks
Bridge and Rogalski shared plenty of helpful tips for anyone looking to start their social-media strategy. Bridge said Maverik tends to post five times a day on Facebook, once or twice a day on Instagram and whatever seems right for Twitter that day. “We try to do one a day, but it just depends,” he said.
Bridge also suggested thinking of social media as a communal dinner table where brands can converse with fans. “Treat them like your friends and they will trust you,” she said. Maverik usually avoids posting something with no other purpose than to promote a two-for-three deal for a product. Rogalski will often suggest products through social-media channels, but only if he truly enjoys them. “If 'Nitro' says to do something, most people on social media will do it because they trust him,” said Bridge.
But mostly, social media is a platform for fun, and that also goes for employees. “Sometimes it can be stressful,” Bridge said, “but most if the time it’s thinking of the crazy thing we can do next.”