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Using E-media to Attract Customers

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Using E-media to Attract Customers

Whether it’s a baseball game or a rainstorm, Mark Gillard sees opportunities to engage with Sullivan Tire Co. Inc.’s customers.

The Massachusetts-based tire dealership is the 12th largest in the country, and it’s not afraid to experiment with its e-media strategy, says Gillard, the company’s marketing and advertising manager.

Sullivan Tire is particularly active on social media, with a heavy focus on Twitter and Facebook. Gillard says he and his team try to adhere to a 70-20-10 rule: 70% of posts are informative and fun and often relate to car care; 20% of posts share other people’s content; and the final 10% promote Sullivan Tire directly.

“We try to think of something creative,” Gillard says. “We try to have fun with it.”

Much of the fun feeds off the Boston area’s enthusiasm for its sports teams. Gillard says he often tweets while watching Red Sox games, cheering on home runs and strikeouts like other baseball fans. But he’s just as likely to remind the company’s 6,000-plus followers on Twitter (and 21,000-plus on Facebook) to come in for a new set of windshield wipers during a rainstorm.

There’s fun to be had in tires, too. Earlier this year Gillard sent tweets asking customers to send in photos of the sidewall of their tires. “If you need a quote on tires take a pic of the tire sidewall, tweet it to us and we’ll shoot you a quote.”

Did they receive a few replies? Yes. Did it set off a fire storm of tire sales? No. But Gillard was OK with that – though a big run on tires would have been OK, too.

“We have specific goals. Social media is one of the top drivers to our website; it’s in the top five. We’re building brand awareness. We’re building trust. We let people know there are humans behind this company.”

Breathing new life into a business doesn’t have to come from social media, however. One tire dealer is putting a new twist on an “old” technology. Ted Wiens Tire & Auto Centers this year re-invested in radio advertising, specifically, two Spanish radio stations.

“This is our entrance into Spanish-language marketing,” says Jennifer Wiens, brand manager for the 11-store tire dealership in Las Vegas. Wiens says the Spanish radio ads are running on two stations. “It’s just branding. Most of our stuff isn’t an offer. Most of it is just branding.”

In terms of demographics, it makes perfect sense. Of the more than 1.9 million people living in Clark County, where Las Vegas is the county seat, 568,644 – or 29.1% – identified as Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2010 Census. In Las Vegas the Hispanic or Latino population grew from 23.6% in 2000 to 31.5% in 2010.

“We’ve been here since 1948, and we’re the oldest independently owned auto and tire shop in Las Vegas. You can’t drive far without seeing one of our stores. Our main thing is getting the name out there. They may not need us today, but they may need us another day.”    ■

Two social media tips from a pro

Mark Gillard is the brains behind Sullivan Tire Co. Inc.’s social media efforts, and he has two pieces of advice for tire dealers taking their first leaps into social media.

First, you don’t have to be active on every platform. “Pick a couple and get good at them.” Sullivan Tire has Instagram and YouTube accounts, plus a Pinterest page, but those aren’t their go-to spots to engage with their customers and communities.

Sullivan Tire primarily sticks to Twitter and Facebook. “And if I was going to do one, I would tell them to do Facebook. I think Facebook is the place. It’s where the eyeballs are.”

And secondly, don’t hire a firm to do it all for you. “I’m a believer in keeping it in house. I really think you should at least be in charge of it in house.”

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