For Director of Brand Communications Melanie Isbill, RaceTrac is a family business.
Melanie's father, Carl Bolch Jr., succeeded his father, Carl Bolch Sr., as CEO of RaceTrac in 1967. And a few years ago, he passed that title on to his daughter, Melanie's sister, Allison Bolch Moran. In fact, last year, RaceTrac won the Cox Family Enterprise Center's Family Business of the Year Award.
It [social media] is the way of the world. It's the way people want to communicate with brands today.
But Melanie didn't start on the marketing side of things at RaceTrac. After working as a Product Assistant with Macy's Merchandising Group, Melanie joined the family business in the gasoline trading area where she worked with inventory management and trading.
“I was looking for a change and wanted to do something completely different that wasn't necessarily in my background or realm of expertise. I was looking to stretch, do something new, and be challenged,” she says.
As she eventually worked her way to a marketing position within RaceTrac, Melanie teamed up with their category team to launch their first private label energy drink, helped with their website rebranding, and worked with their design group on store signage.
“I was very fortunate to have a strong team to learn from on the communications side,” Melanie says.
With a restructure happening within the organization, Melanie and her Branding team took the opportunity to combine with the Communications team handling PR, social media, and internal communications.
Melanie says that putting a bigger emphasis and more resources into social media just made sense for RaceTrac.
“It's the way of the world. It's the way people want to communicate with brands today,” she explains.
“Social media is one of the few ways that you can very directly engage with consumers.”
Melanie says, “When you put a billboard out there, you never truly know what people think about it. But when you put something in social media, you get pretty direct comments and feedback right away, and that's a pretty cool thing to see.”
She says that's led them to focus on growing their social channels by combining teams, bringing on new capabilities, and taking advantage of that flexibility. They're supported by a creative team that delivers graphics, creates videos, and helps brainstorm on campaigns.
For agency support, Melanie says they rely on outside help for a few campaigns each year.
But they keep the daily community management and social marketing in house.
“We tend to like to control things,” Melanie laughs.
“We like to keep the day-to-day here because we feel like we know our brand the best. We want to make sure we're able to keep the customer engaged, and if there are any problems, we want to be the one dealing with the issues that surface.”
“At the end of the day, a lot of people still see us as just a gas station. But social media is real-time proof that guests want to engage with us,” Melanie says.
For example, in their latest Facebook campaign promoting Sodapalooza, they've earned 600-800 responses on posts that ask simple questions and give away rewards to random commenters. Melanie says people even respond to congratulate the winners after they've been announced.
She explains that with that kind of engagement, social media has helped to earn leadership's buy-in for bigger initiatives.
“We're so new to the social space that we see a lot of potential for growth,” she says.
Right now, one of their biggest goals is to reach 100,000 followers on Facebook, a milestone Melanie's team plans to celebrate with something fun and engaging with their followers.
“We're looking at engagement as our number-one goal, but we feel like we have so much room to grow in our followers that it's a big focus for us to really leverage those channels.”
Follow Melanie on Twitter and ask about her favorite slushie flavor. Melanie's been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2013.