When Frito-Lay devotee Abby Nierman got a direct message on Instagram from the snack food giant inviting her to join its fan club, The Frito-Lay Snack Society, she was more than a little surprised.
“I definitely screenshot it and dropped it into my group chats,” Nierman said.
Her friends and family, on the other hand, thought it made perfect sense.
Nierman has a passion for Frito-Lay bordering on the devout. Her social media accounts from Instagram to TikTok abound with proclamations of her love of the brand. Her cat is named Cheeto. She wears Cheetos-branded socks.
“When you post about and tag brands, you have it in the back of your head that they might notice,” Nierman acknowledged. “I thought they would maybe like a post, but I never thought I would get invited to a club,” she said.
Or, in this case, the club.
She’s accustomed to receiving messages from her family and friends, but from a brand as big as Frito-Lay? “DM is the most personal form of Instagram communication,” she said, adding, “You don’t expect a company managing a ginormous account to reach out to their fans.”
Finding Frito-Lay’s 1%
The snack brand tapped technology firm Zyper to search the social media world and identify 150 candidates with a passion for Frito-Lay, which was then whittled down to 22 people.
“The Frito-Lay Snack Society creates a platform for [us] to engage with our top, passionate snack fans and provide them with the unique opportunity to interact with our brand,” the company said in an e-mail to Adweek.
And Nierman is exactly the kind of fan brands such as Frito-Lay are looking to connect with, according to Amber Atherton, founder and CEO of Zyper. “All of the brands Zyper works with want to know who the top 1% of their fans are, and we help them source and identify [them],” she said.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Nierman is not someone you would consider an influencer, or even a micro influencer, in the traditional sense. Prior to being invited to The Frito-Lay Snack Society, she had fewer than 3,000 followers on Instagram, Nierman said.
But what she does have is a highly engaged and loyal following, with some 1,000 profile views per week and an Instagram engagement rate of more than 9%. That’s almost double the industry benchmark engagement rate of 5%.
“We look at a fan’s engagement, following-to-follower ratio, aesthetic style, location, demographics, activity, brand affinities and any other social data available,” Atherton pointed out.
Nierman also has a knack for creating the kind of authentically personable or relatable content brands desire.
One of her initial posts on TikTok after becoming a club member was of her unwrapping a welcome box sent by Frito-Lay. It was packed with snacks and gifts, such as a Frito-Lay Snack Society embroidered backpack and chip clips. Thus far, the video has received 270,000 views and 60,000 likes.
In a separate post on Instagram, Nierman told the story of her first manicure after being inducted, immediately followed by a run across the street to buy a bag of Cheetos. The result was Cheetos dust all over her new manicure. “I got a lot of DMs from friends telling me that it was totally my personality,” she said.
The benefits of an exclusive club
In The Frito-Lay Snack Society, members are cordoned off into a closed community, with the brand directly communicating with them via an app provided by Zyper.
On the app, where fans can also chat with each other, members fill out surveys answering questions about what they like to eat, or if they were a Frito-Lay product which one would they be, according to Nierman.
These 22 fans are loyal advocates and relevant to the brand in terms of how they post, their style and the type of feedback they provide, Atherton explained. “For example, a brand fan will follow a brand on Instagram, post and tag about the brand on their own story authentically, and suggest the brand to their friends, family and networks,” she said.
Members are also required to put specific hashtags in their Instagram bio and posts on social media in order to be official.
As Frito-Lay advocates, fans aren’t on their own when the create content. During the creation process, members of the community receive guidance from the brand on campaign ideas along with mood boards for inspiration. The content is then placed and promoted on sites such as Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.
For Nierman, the draw is not the prospect of being an influencer, but to have a platform to explore her creativity. “This gives me the opportunity to step on the other side and to make content,” she said.
According to Frito-Lay, the community’s “snack enthusiasts” also have the opportunity to try its latest products, be a part of branded events and meet other snackers from across the country.
Frito-Lay, in turn, generates content it can repost, which is “massive as a digital reward for the brand,” Atherton said. Community fans are not paid contributors.
In addition to identifying a brand’s top advocates and providing an app to communicate with them in a closed environment, Zyper provides a dashboard feature, which is only for the eyes of the brand’s digital marketing managers or social media managers.
Utilizing the software tool, brands can view metrics on the amount of content created, likes, comments, reach, community sentiment, trending hashtags, positive mentions, link clicks, fan demographics and fan post engagement, according to Atherton.
“Brands can gain competitive market share by having this community always talking about the brand, keeping the conversation always going,” she said, adding, “It’s the brand’s secret weapon.”
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