If you happen to be located in an area graced by the presence of Sheetz, you know that people are absolutely fanatical about them. I’m not going to lie to you: I am one of those people.
Check out any of their social profiles, and you will see that not only are they active (and not just in a broadcast way), but their followers are also incredibly engaged.
I grew up in a small central Pennsylvania town that happens to hold bragging rights to the following:
- The Slinky was invented here.
- This is where Sheetz was founded (and thus why Morgan Spurlock came to visit last year when Sheetz was a featured brand in his documentary Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold).
So while I can be at two different Sheetz stores in less than five minutes, you might be asking yourself, “What the heck is a Sheetz?”
Some Background Info:
Sheetz (so named for founder Bob Sheetz and his brother, Steve) was founded in 1952 as a dairy/deli with one location in Altoona, PA. By 1972, they had fourteen locations across central Pennsylvania, and in 1973, they added gas pumps, which effectively introduced self-serve to the area. Today they have over 400 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina.
And people go this crazy over a gas station?
Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. Sheetz has gas pumps, but they’re known more as a convenience restaurant. By that, I mean that you can go in and pick up a gallon of milk, some bread, and dinner for your whole family. But it’s not like fast-food where your options are limited to value meals and everything is pulled out of a deep-fryer. Sheetz brought life to the MTO (made-to-order food items, referred to as MTOs). You can watch everything made in front of you. They’ve also grown over the years to build a menu with more than just sandwiches, and today they also have their own speciality coffees, as well as bakery items.
Sheetz used to be strictly carry-out only, but in the past several years, they have remodeled older locations and built new ones that have indoor and outdoor seating areas. You order your food, pay for it, pick it up, then have a seat and relax with your friends. The atmosphere is fun and laid back, which makes it a popular hangout.
And, because they take nutrition seriously, you can even read up on the nutrition info on their website so that you know what you’re putting into your body.
Which brings me to their content strategy.
As I’ve noted before, social media and content marketing go together like peas and carrots. Social media is a part of content marketing – and a very important one. And it’s here that Sheetz really thrives.
Visit their Facebook page and you’ll see that they have acquired nearly 206,000 Likes. That audience is actively engaged, too. Sheetz does an excellent job of mixing up their content on Facebook. In the vein of awesome content marketing, they post about their business and offers, but they’re also posting about other things as well. They post pictures, polls, videos – and their fans are quick to show the love. Sheetz even recently invited their fans to offer input on a new advertising campaign. And as with anything else they post, the fans were quick to offer their opinions. They enthusiastically participate and comment on everything, even conversing with each other.
How many content marketers dream of that kind of scenario?
Sure, you see that happening with big-name brands, but not usually with family-owned businesses.
So how does Sheetz do it?
Their brand voice is authentic, fun, and tuned in to what’s going on in the world. They have fun with the content they post to their social sites, and they interact with their followers. Check out their Twitter account – by and large, all the posts are responses to people showing their Sheetz love.
Their brand voice also has a sense of humor, which has a relaxing effect on their followers. Their social media accounts are as laid back and approachable as their stores are. Don’t think that their strong brand voice coupled with consistency in every aspect from store to web doesn’t play a big part in the amount of interaction their social content sees.
Most content marketers would agree that video is what’s hot right now. Sheetz has a YouTube channel that features a number of light-hearted and humorous video spots for their brand and its “Just because we don’t look like a restaurant doesn’t mean we’re not one” message.
(The videos are amusing. I really recommend them!)
They also feature other brand videos (almost always clever in nature), and currently have over 42,000 video plays.
Blog? Where are you, blog?
When you land on the Sheetz website, its design reflects the personality the brand exhibits on its social profiles. It’s easy to navigate, and there’s plenty of solid content there. You can read about the history, their philanthropy, and all about their products. You can view a menu. You can buy some sweet Sheetz swag.
But you can’t read their blog.
After taking in so much great content across their social profiles and website, I was more than a bit surprised to discover that Sheetz has no blog.
My mind shrieked: But a blog is the cornerstone of a great content strategy!
I have two lines of thought regarding this:
- They really need a blog to tie their content marketing strategy together.
- Their content marketing strategy seems to be doing really well for not having a blog.
For as conflicted as those two points of view are, the biggest part of me believes that, though their followers are already highly engaged without it, if Sheetz took to blogging for business, they could only serve to increase engagement and awareness of their brand.
Not only that, but I notice that their competitor, Wawa, also doesn’t have a blog. This could be a big chance for Sheetz to step up and further stand out above the crowd. Given their status as a restaurant meets gas station meets convenience store, they’re in a unique position to blog about several different topics. A few off the top of my head:
- Gas prices, as well as national and international news about oil and whether we’ll ever fill up our tanks for anything below $3/gallon any time soon-ish.
- Nutrition, including health and fitness tips.
- Featured ‘Sheetz Storiez’ from customers (these would come from the die-hards – people who get engaged, married, divorced, etc. in Sheetz; incredible lengths people have gone to to get a Sheetz fix, etc.)
- Liquor laws. Sheetz has been very instrumental in the push to update Pennsylvania’s archaic liquor laws. Why? Some people enjoy picking up their adult beverages at grocery or convenience stores. There aren’t currently many places in PA where you can legally do that.
If Sheetz took the same approach to a blog as they do to their social media profiles – updating regularly in a strong, authentic, fun voice – I have no doubts that they could take even the potentially dullest of topics and get their readers involved.
The 2012 Digital Content Marketing Survey conducted by Brandpoint and the Content Marketing Institute shows that social is the most-utilized form of web content (90%) with blogging following immediately behind that at 75%. That same study shows that the best results come from social content, e-newsletters, and blogging, as the top three.
Could their solid use of social content + a blog = a content marketing powerhouse for Sheetz?
I think so.
On the whole, Sheetz has done a great job of creating social and web content. Their content strategy is strong, their community is engaged, and there’s enthusiasm for their brand oozing off the screen.
But they’re missing a blog. While I think that you can do a great job creating a solid content marketing strategy without one, I stand by my position that a blog is a very important part of your brand’s community. In this case, it’s a way for people to learn more about what Sheetz stands for and believes in than a quick Facebook update could tell them.
What other brands have you encountered that do an awesome job of content marketing without having a blog? What’s your stance on the role of a blog in content marketing? Let us know!
*Editor’s Note: In the two days between the time of this writing and its posting, the Sheetz Facebook page surpassed 206,000 ‘Likes.’
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