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LinkedIn: the social media platform for the business-minded

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AKRON — As I started patrolling the Internet for a tire dealer who does a great job utilizing LinkedIn, a networking website for business professionals, I came across Camarillo, Calif.-based Big Brand Tire & Service, which operates 17 retail stores in California.

I spoke with Chris Cassidy, Internet marketing manager, and thought he did such a great job explaining how Big Brand Tire uses LinkedIn and other social media sites, I decided to run a straight Q&A for this blog.

The questions and responses below have been edited for clarity.

Cassidy

Tire Business: When did you start using social media for Big Brand?

Chris Cassidy: We started with social media back in 2011 with Facebook and Twitter and since then have grown to pretty much all the mainstream social media platforms out there, including Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn.

TB: And why did you decide to start it and then continue to expand it?

CC: We started it originally to, just for branding, grow our fan base. And as that started up, and as we started seeing more interaction from our customers, we realized that we can use it as a sales platform as well as a customer service platform.

TB: What type of interaction were you seeing with the customers?

CC: The first interactions we were seeing were mostly customer-service related. We found that a lot of people liked to use social media platforms as a way to express their opinions about the company and what they liked and didn't like. And as that grew, we also found that the more we addressed the issues that were brought up on social media, the more we started creating, I guess, consumer advocates — people that would back up Big Brand Tire & Service and also take a position that we would, to where they are responding back to our fans and acknowledging times that they've spent visiting our stores and experiences that they've had themselves compared with some of the experiences that other users were expressing on the social media platforms.

TB: If you had to name one thing that would be the greatest benefit since you started using social media, what would it be?

CC: I would say just consumer engagement. Just being able to engage with our fans and just finding different things that interest them as well that we can use in future marketing campaigns.

TB: And since you started using social media, have you found that you've been hitting different demographics as far as customers? Are you reaching younger demographics than you were previously?

CC: Yeah. I would say the demographic is a little bit younger on social media, but with the advent of LinkedIn we also found that that demographic can change as well, depending on which platform you're using. So for instance on LinkedIn, we found we can get a higher age group demographic as well as more of a business-to-business demographic for our wholesale.

T

B: Is that how you use mainly use LinkedIn then, with your wholesale business? How do you go about doing that?

CC: Yes and no…. LinkedIn is a good outlet for wholesale. We definitely found some advantages for the B2B type of business, but at the same time, it's also a good outlet for recruiting as well.

TB: Recruiting employees?

CC: Correct, hiring.

TB: And have you been successful finding employees that way?

CC: Yeah, we have. We found that there's definitely a certain niche of employees that you find on there. Most of our job openings are for mechanics, tire mechanics, front-end brake mechanics, tire specialists and those positions you may not fill as fast on LinkedIn as you would on other job outlets, but if we're looking for higher management position and more IT-related positions, we've found those are a lot easier on LinkedIn.

TB: And if you were going about trying to get someone interested in that position, how would you post it?

CC: We use the social media aspect of it to kind of share what the company's about—what our vision is as a company as a whole—and then we also utilize our YouTube channel to show videos. Recently, we did the Harlem Shake video, and that tends to show a lighter side of the company—how we like to have fun as well. And that helps.

TB: When you go to post information on LinkedIn, do you post it the same way if you were going to post on, say, Facebook? Or do you kind of market it differently?

CC: Yes and no. I am selective with what gets posted on LinkedIn as opposed to Facebook, or Google+ or Twitter. On those we pretty much cover the whole gamut of topics, whereas on LinkedIn we may keep it more of a business perspective and what's happening in the industry—the tire industry itself as a business.

TB: What sort of posts do you put on LinkedIn?

CC: Really, we try to keep it as open as possible. You know, if we're talking LinkedIn only, then we try to keep it on a business focus and what's happening in the tire industry. If there's financial news happening in the tire industry, we'll put that on LinkedIn, whereas with Facebook and Google+ and Twitter, we kind of open it up to anything and everything…. If we're browsing the Internet, and we see some guy that has built a barbeque pit on a 4x4 chassis and has big, old, 4-wheel-drive tires on this barbeque pit, that would be something we would post.

And then, we also try to cater to our different customers as well. We have the auto import tuner customers that like to fix up their Japanese import racing style cars, and then we have the classic car guys that have the classic muscle cars. And then we have the off-road guys, and then we have the NASCAR guys, so we try to do a little bit of everything.

TB: So when you are posting on Facebook it's more customer-oriented and then LinkedIn is more business-oriented, correct?

CC: Yeah, I'd say that's correct.

TB: On LinkedIn, have you found that anyone searches you out in hopes of landing a job or forming a B2B-type connection? Or are you more often searching for people

CC: It's more us doing the searching. We do notice people browsing our profile. And that very well may be one of the first things they do before applying with the company, is they look at our LinkedIn profile.

TB: If you had to pick one thing about LinkedIn that may be an advantage over other sites, what would it be?

CC: I would say the networking with your peers.

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Still have questions? Any subjects you'd like to see covered on this blog? Let me know at 330-865-6143, jkarpus@crain.com or send a message to Tire Business at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or at tirebusiness@crain.com.

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