Learn to be social

In every issue of YCM/Octane we share stories from convenience, gas and wash retailers who are using social media to build a community of loyal customers. Pictured above is Scott Knack, owner of Alcona Esso in Innisfil, Ont.

Photo by Brandon Gray

In every issue of YCM/Octane we share stories from convenience, gas and wash retailers who are using social media to build a community of loyal customers. Pictured above is Scott Knack, owner of Alcona Esso in Innisfil, Ont. Over the last couple of years, Scott and his team have built up a Facebook following of more than 1,400 people. Check out their social media story "Making Friends" in the January issue of YCM/Octane. It's full of innovative ideas and tips to help you learn from their success.

In the March issue of YCM/Octane, we introduced you to another c-store retailer who also uses social media to connect with customers. Sarah Berry, a retailer from Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia and her husband, Michael, own the Advocate Country Store Rite Stop, and despite their initial unfamiliarity with social media, they've developed a strong online presence in their community.

“I learned that social media is where the times have gone. People want to be able to look things up online to find what they’re looking for,” says Berry.

But there was just one problem: she didn’t know where to start. “I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know what content to put on the site and I didn’t know anything about timing,” she says.

Her next move was a smart one. “I went to Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC), which originally helped us get our store going, and I asked them if they offered any programming to help with social media. It turned out they did have funding,” she explains. The CBDC matched Berry up with a local social media expert who walked her through the basics. “He came to my house a couple of times, he helped me get set up, and he taught me some of the basic skills I would need.”

After getting the help she needed, Berry started the Advocate Country Store Rite Stop Facebook page in March 2012, and she now has more than 300 ‘likes’. She has built a loyal following, and continues to see it grow as she tells each new customer how to connect with her outside of the store.

Like most retailers, Berry wanted to let her customers know about her in-store offers.  If you look at the Facebook page now, you’ll see information about new arrivals, sales and community updates, as well as the daily in-store foodservice specials, “I put our weekly menu on our Facebook page, and a lot of people come in and say they’re here because they read the menu on Facebook,”she explains.

Berry also uses the social media page as a way to promote the various charity events the store is involved in, including raising funds for local sports and The Children’s Wish Foundation.

For most retailers, the thought of adding yet another task to the daily agenda is daunting, but social media doesn’t have to be a labourious task, says Berry. It’s simply another way to connect with your customers. “It’s not time consuming – it’s just five minutes out of every day. How can you go wrong?”

Now, just like Scott Knack at Alcona Esso, Berry understands that her store’s Facebook page is an extension of the exceptional customer service she works so hard to provide in store every day.

How did the Berrys do it? Here are their top 4 tips for social success:

1. Get help. If you’re not sure how social media sites like Facebook work, just ask. Your friends, family or staff will likely be able to share their knowledge with you.

2. Develop a strategy. Find out what you want to do with your page. Will you promote in-store specials? Share photos? Update customers on new deals? Develop a strategy so the page makes sense.

3. Promote your page. You won’t get followers by sitting back and relaxing. Let your customers know about the page, and promote it in store with signage or incentive deals.

4. Stick with it. Success won’t come overnight, but if you remain consistent and provide a valuable service, your following will grow.