NASHVILLE, Tenn.Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations L.L.C.'s Affiliated Retailer Program is getting ready to launch a social media program as part of its dealer support system in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Social media is the new 'word of mouth,' said Barry Feasel, general manager, Affiliated Retailer Sales Channel-Retail, in an email interview with Tire Business.
In the past the discussion about your business, good or bad, was during the Tuesday night card game or at the Wednesday afternoon bridge club, he said. Today, the word about your business is spread via social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter etc.
With 71 percent of users today accessing social media via a mobile device, Mr. Feasel explained that the discussion about a business is probably taking place even before the customer leaves the dealer's parking lot.
While social media is changing the game, it doesn't have to change it for the worst.
The great news is that now you have an opportunity to create a personality for your business and lead the discussion instead of reacting to it, good or bad, he said.
Some dealers may be hesitant to jump onboard social media because they think that only younger demographics are on this platform, but Mr. Feasel said that would be a big mistake and misconception.
Today by far the fastest growing participation on the most popular sites is the over 45 crowd, he noted.
Additionally, more than 70 percent of Internet users are also social media users, which means that customers are active there. More than 90 percent of marketers are using social media, with 70 percent claiming that they have used Facebook to successfully gain new customers. This means a dealer's competitors are probably on social media as well, and gaining customers at the expense of the dealership.
Bridgestone's Affiliated Retailer Program is the tire manufacturer's way of providing resources and information for its dealers, Mr. Feasel said, and social media exposure is one of those ways.
The program will offer Bridgestone dealers assistance in managing their social presence among the most popular social outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Yelp and potentially Pinterest and Instagram.
It will be completely up to the dealer on how involved they wish to be in managing the various outlets, he said.
Bridgestone has been testing this program with various Affiliated Retailers around the country since October 2014. Mr. Feasel said some dealers have been heavily involved on a daily basis; others elected to turn over the majority of the daily management.
While Bridgestone will be offering this resource, participation is optional. Mr. Feasel acknowledged that some dealers are already successful with their social media presence and others will decline to participate on the platform. He noted, though, that he encourages all Bridgestone dealers to participate on such a fast growing opportunitywhether that is through the new service or on their own.
For dealers opting into the program, the agencies Bridgestone is working with will maintain frequent contact with participating dealers to provide advice and direction in managing their social presence, Mr. Feasel said, though he did not provide the agencies' names because the program is still in beta testing.
There will be a fee to participate, but he said the pricing has yet to be determined.
The cost, in my opinion, will be very small percentage of a dealer's monthly advertising budget considering the return this has the potential to provide in terms of maintaining a relationship with your current customers, attracting new customers and improving organic search results, Mr. Feasel said.
To reach this reporter: jkarpus @crain.com; 330-865-6143; Twitter: @jenniferkarpus