Convenience store chains, like most retailers, pay close attention to transaction counts and sales per customer. Until recently, getting to know your customers as individuals might have seemed costly and out of reach for all but the largest of companies. Having the opportunity to communicate with your customers and getting to know their friends and family, well that would have been outright ridiculous. Well thanks to the internet and to the emergence of social networking sites, the opportunity to connect with your customers and their network of relationships is within every retailer’s reach. While there are a lot of social networking sites to consider, such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, FourSquare, and Twitter, the explosive growth and popularity of Facebook make it a great place to start. Over the last 12 months, Facebook has seen its active user base grow from 250 million to over 550 million. As of September 2010, Facebook had 6 times the unique monthly visitors of MySpace and Twitter. According to Hitwise, Facebook commands a 51% share of all social media site visits. That means that 1 of 2 visitors to a social media website are going to Facebook. Need more convincing that Facebook is where you should start? Facebook is now the second most visited website, after Google, and its visitors spend an astronomical average of 55 minutes per day on the site.
While Facebook provides a great platform at a great price (it’s free right now) that does not mean that you can just set up a fan page and your customers will come running. Like any other marketing tactics that you employ, you need to establish a strategy and plan for maximizing results. Your Facebook fan page should be “on brand”, consistent with your store image and website. You will need to determine how to attract employees, customers and potential customers to your page. Make your fan page a place that they will want to visit regularly, engage in conversation, and recommend that their friends “like”. Some c-store chains have struggled building their fan base, while others are experiencing consistent growth. Why the difference? It all boils down to design, dialogue, functionality and value. Consider having promotions just for your facebook fans. Run contests for reaching fan milestones. Use Facebook to promote your text or e-mail marketing programs. Make sure not to over market to your fans. Only about 20% of your posts should be related to your products and services. The remainder should be information, education and entertainment. Some companies are even using Facebook for recruiting purposes.
Larger chains hope you don’t invest in social media as they know that this is an area where smaller chains can look just as professional as their larger counterparts, with a little FBML (like HTML with FB standing for Facebook) coding and graphic design. In fact, smaller chains have an advantage as their fan bases will be more manageable and easier to engage than a fan base of 100,000 or more that companies like 7-11, WaWa and QuikTrip currently maintain. The sooner you start marketing on Facebook, the better you will become with the tool and the faster you will see it impact your business. Even if you don’t have a website, a Facebook fan page is a must for every convenience store chain. Where else can you send out promotions to your customers and engage them in conversations about your products and services in an open forum without having to pay the media provider a fee? With the exception of other less popular social networking sites, the answer is nowhere.