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How 7Eleven's Instagram grew 600k from... cars?

When hitting a subculture becomes a whole brand.

I’ve got cool news & something FREE for ya. I’m hosting a digital talk + Q&A with Paysafe all about social media strategy for small businesses! I’ll walk through important basics + some 201-level tips like getting the most out of your iPhone, influencer marketing for dummies, and more—then you can ask me whatever you like!

You can RSVP right here for the Sept 14th talk. Until then, let’s chat about:

  • Why @7Eleven is all about cars

  • When a UGC post becomes a huge marketing campaign

  • Threads: the browser version

—Jack Appleby

How 7Eleven's Insta grew 600k from... cars?

If I told you to guess what @7eleven’s Instagram content is like, you’d probably assume Slurpees galore, Big Gulp splashes, and… I don’t know, hot dogs?

And your guess would be wrong. Because @7Eleven is a car account. And it’s a strategy that’s earned 600,000 followers in the last two years.

We’ve gotta dig into this. Let’s take a look at:

  • How a user trend inspired a brand trend

  • How a brand trend became a marketing campaign

  • How a marketing campaign became @7Eleven’s whole personality.

The user trend: parked cars

I won’t pretend to know anything about cars (despite five years as a valet in college), but I know people park & hang, especially when they’re proud of their rides. And most places of business don’t want anyone chilling in their lot, especially late into the night.

But 7-Eleven doesn’t close. Those neon lights run all night. Plus, Big Gulps. That made the convenience stores a safe haven for car enthusiasts to relax, admire each other’s whips, and take pics of their pride & joy.

The 7-Eleven social team scales their content calendar by including user-generated content (UGC), so the brand tried out one of their customer’s car posts. 50,000 likes. 50,000 likes. A month later, similar results. The engagement was high, the lift was low, and it made customers feel seen, so car UGC became a monthly play on @7Eleven. Which inspired…

The brand trend: #CarsOf7Eleven

All those car UGC posts caught the car community’s attention. An October 2021 TikTok went viral—suddenly @7Eleven added 45,000 followers overnight. This wasn’t just low-hanging UGC anymore—a humongous subculture latched on to the brand, and the brand showed them love.

#CarsOf7Eleven was born, where car enthusiasts could post pics parked in front of their favorite convenience store. That hashtag’s up to 43,000+ photos of drivers hoping to get featured with their cars & Slurpees.

The brand received so many submissions via hashtag they created a new weekly content series: the Friday CAR-ousel post (dad joke laugh).

UGC round-up posts like this are such a great way to garner high engagement and fan love. Your brand is posting 10 different high-quality pictures, all of which have been tested as highly-engaged on customer’s personal accounts, in a group post where all 10 photographers are tagged, who will be sure to share it again on their personal page, attracting all of their personal followers to 7-Eleven. Win win win win win.

The trend and content continued to be wildly successful, which inspired…

The Bigger Marketing Campaigns

Cars are so core to the 7-Eleven brand now that their major marketing campaigns almost require their inclusion. They’re really blown out the concept across multiple mediums, from influencers to events to video games. Just take a look at:

I’ve never seen a brand commit to the bit quite so hard, and I love it. It’s clearly working for them—I trust that they wouldn’t toss big marketing budgets at expanding their car campaign unless the ROI was truly there, and boy, is the content great.


I’m out of synonyms for cars, but the numbers speak for themselves, so I’ll just vroom out of the way (I’m so sorry) (I should’ve called this section the finish line).

  • 600,000 new followers in two years

  • +475% engagement

  • 13.3 million views on TikTok

If you want a nice little video summary, check out the case study from their Shorty Awards entry:

What’s the learning for your brand?

The best social insights come from the fans. I’ll bet every product has some unexpected use or surprise cultural tie that surely didn’t come from a marketing deck. Pedialyte was mostly mom-approved rehydration for sick kids—then it became an unofficial hangover cure, shifting the brand’s marketing strategy.

Scour social for product use cases. Check the content with your #brandnamehashtag, see what people are up to. Actually talk to actual customers, in person or on the phone—face-to-face research is underrated these days.

Then dip your toe into those uses cases, try a little UGC or original content based on the insights, and see what happens.

I’m hosting a FREE social media webinar for small businesses!

Wanna ask me your most burning social media questions? Well, now you can!

I’m hosting a free digital talk + Q&A with Paysafe, focusing on social media strategy for small businesses. It’s easy for everyone to shout MAKE TIKTOKS or YOU NEED CONTENT EVERYWHERE, but let’s be honest—that doesn’t work for small teams & companies new to social.

Come join me September 14 at 11 am PST / 2 pm EST to talk all things social media. Click this link right here to RSVP, and get your questions ready!

Social Cues

There are so many big thinkers out there, documenting all kinds of amazing strategies, analysis, mindsets, and breakdowns. All ships rise with the tide, so here are a few reads & watches from other places I think you could learn from.

Marketers & social folk: I really want you looking outside of brands for inspiration when approaching content creation. YouTubers, bands, web comic artists, thought leaders—they’ve all got unique approaches that you could learn from. Here’s a scalable content model from Justin Welsh, who’s rapidly become one of my B2B creator idols.

I read a ton of growth content—think marketers could look into this stuff a little more to find work-life balance, build career goals, and generally find professional happiness. Really enjoyed this piece on timeframing life.

I thought launching mobile-only was a big miss for Threads—sure, short-form text is mostly consumed on phones, but I suspect a huge % of creators use they keyboards to write witticisms. We’ll see if the browser edition boosts engagement.