LAS VEGAS — Wawa has stepped up its social media strategy in recent years, and in the process has gained 2.6 million followers and 2.5 million monthly engagements across all of its platforms.

The company has gotten there by offering a range of lighthearted content on its various channels, including TikTok and Instagram. It’s run a video series featuring two beefcakes handing out $100 gift cards to promote its annual HoagieFest, and featured videos teasing drink specials aligned to shoppers’ astrological signs.

One post commiserating with people who have moved to a place without a Wawa store garnered more than 4,000 likes.

According to Ariel Norwood, senior director of marketing engagement with Bounteous, the marketing company that manages Wawa’s social media strategy, the convenience store chain is looking to drive awareness and loyalty by meeting young digitally savvy shoppers on their terms and by channeling their enthusiasm for the brand.

“Our consumers get engaged in Wawa, they get married in Wawa, they have special photoshoots in Wawa. … And as you can imagine, this is great for social media,” she said during an educational session at the NACS Show on Sunday.

Wawa’s social media team tries to create content that falls into three categories: relatable content, educational content and content that provides incentives and promotions. One popular giveaway post asked shoppers to enter for a chance to win a summer road trip getaway, with all provisions provided by Wawa. The three-part video matching drinks to people’s astrological signs, meanwhile, prompted people to repeat those same orders in stores, Norwood said. 

The social media team often makes scrappy, on-the-fly content featuring talent that’s close at hand — like a Bounteous social media manager, who appeared in one recent popular video.

“We tend to use people who work for us often as the face of the brand in social media because it is really tough to track down models,” she said.

The team also takes care to schedule plenty of content in advance and to build metadata into each post so they can track the popularity of various topics and types of posts over time.

A few campaigns have managed to significantly move the needle on Wawa’s social following. Wawa signed up for a beta version of TikTok ads for brands, funneled some of its most popular social content into the program and over a year’s time saw the number of followers increase more than 1,800%. The chain currently has more than 500,000 followers on the popular platform.

This summer, to celebrate the return of its HoagieFest, which offers deals on the popular sandwich in stores, Wawa created 4,000 NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, and gave them away to employees and shoppers. The move grew Wawa’s social media following by 75,000 in one month.

Ariel Norwood, senior director of marketing engagement with Bounteous.

Ariel Norwood, senior director of marketing engagement with Bounteous, which manages Wawa’s social media strategy.

Jeff Wells/C-Store

Norwood, who used to manage social media accounts for Whole Foods Market, encouraged attendees to think about what sets their brand apart, and what consumer desire it can fulfill, as part of crafting a social media strategy. Develop an engaging, unique voice that reflects the brand and is approachable to digitally savvy consumers, and make sure to measure results in order to further hone content and inform the business strategy.

She recommended operators new to social media focus on getting one channel right, and then scale up from there. She stressed that c-store operators should focus more on engaging users than on building up followers.

“I would argue that a brand with a highly engaged fanbase with 50,000 followers has a really strong social media program, even if they don’t have a large following,” she said.

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