"Social media is obviously an important part of any business' marketing strategy," Mr. Tyler said, but it is even more important to the automotive service industry because "it's all about relationships and trust with your customers."
He said the further into the Web program the company gets, the better it becomes at determining which sites get the most interaction for each individual location.
"This allows us to fine tune our social media program for locations and give dealers a better idea of what activities may help their business or online presence," Mr. Tyler said.
"For example, based on our progress we have noted that Twitter engagement is lower in our more rural communities — as one may assume — but Facebook may still get pretty good engagement.
"In cities, we've noted that customers have engaged us on Google+ and Twitter much faster. Urban customers also view our Google+ local listings and reviews more than rural locations, so we ask dealers to encourage customer reviews."
The company plans to expand its program into more platforms — such as Pinterest, Foursquare and Instagram — once research is done to see how different sites can fit into its strategy.
"Pinterest is huge with urban women, who largely make purchasing decisions in families," he added. "This makes up a large part of our passenger (tire) market."
Social media can bridge the gap between a store and its customers by speaking to them everyday instead of just when consumers need a service.
"It's those little interactions that build life-long relationships," Mr. Tyler said. "If you don't see the value in it, your competitors definitely will!"
Integra Tire's main focus for social media is to hone its relationships and educate customers. It also uses it for sales and online coupons.
"We do things like post content, manage cover photos and profile picture, keep an eye on things," Mr. Tyler said. "The dealers are a key component because they post the local content and do the actual interacting."
Previously, Integra Tire had corporate social media pages and then any dealers interested could start their own pages. Inactivity on that front led the company to take action, however.
Integra found that as dealers became busy, they became inactive on the social media front — posting once every six months, "which can sometimes be worse than not being on social media at all," Mr. Tyler said.
With the new program the firm co-manages every dealer's social media accounts.
"This new system allows us to better manage our brand and our reputation on social media while still giving it the local feel," he said.
"We have to keep a balance and ensure our dealers are active as well, that they post and engage their audience on a local level, which is the most important aspect to building local relationships. All in all, social media can be a confusing new realm, especially to dealers who are busy running a shop but still want to build up their local presence."
Because the program is new, Mr. Tyler said the marketing group has not had a chance to do "an in-depth investigation into effectiveness," but he added Integra has seen "great results from some stores"—with some gaining almost 50 fans and followers in the program's first week.
"Our dealers who have utilized Google+ to increase their SEO (search engine optimization) ranking have all moved to first page for popular searches in their city," he said.
"We've seen an increase in views to our website and Google+ listings. We've had dealers mention that new customers come into their shop because of great reviews on Google+.
"My belief is that social media is all about building relationships, just like the automotive business. When people 'like' your page, they're doing much more than hitting a button, they're connecting with you."
The social media program is just one part of a larger Web/SEO program that Integra Tire is offering its dealers in an effort to ensure "dealers can be found online by somebody searching for their services online," Mr. Tyler said, adding: "Our plan also lays out which directories and review websites our dealers are on and how to manage all reviews and ensure information is up to date.
"Also, we have recently made available an online-coupon initiative for dealers. We are also working on plans for a possible e-newsletter initiative."
Integra Tire launched a company intranet for its dealers in late 2012 where they can order promotional items, read updates from suppliers, download important documents and info and more.
"We also have a blog-style company newsletter. In the future we are going to expand the intranet so dealers can interact with each other," Mr. Tyler said.
One aim is for dealers to possibly buy, sell or trade parts from each other and exchange advice.
"Integra Tire & Auto Centre is a young company, and we don't have the brand awareness yet to just throw our name around nationally and hope our message sticks," Mr. Tyler said.
"What counts to us right now is our customers, being in the community and building lifelong relationships locally through great service and integrity.
"For us social media is a great tie-in because it allows us to do just that — build relationships locally and interact with people."
To reach these reporters: [email protected]; 330-865-6143; and [email protected]; 202-662-7211.