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MARKETING: Why Discount Tire gets my vote, again and again

August 29, 2009

I regularly talk with small-business owners who tell me they are not in “high-tech” industries, as such. They don’t see the value of social media. They argue that their customers don’t care about that stuff.

Well, they do. There are plenty of “low-tech” companies exploring ways to build social media into their marketing strategies with outstanding results.

What follows is an example of how Discount Tire used Twitter to gain positive exposure—and customers.

Our story starts with a flat tire. Yet again, I drove over a nail and my wonderful husband took the tire to our local Discount Tire franchise to have it repaired or replaced. While waiting, he was catching up on “tweets” on his iPhone. (Translation, he was reading messages from friends around the world who use Twitter.)

The topics of conversations ranges from news and business information to social comments, humor, politics and much more. In Twitter, messages are limited to 140 characters, with lots of abbreviations and odd spelling to get the messages to fit. The seasoned Twitter user has no trouble sorting through the shorthand.

My husband is an artist, and uses the name @aballstudio. He posted a message to me @roundpeg. He said: “Waiting for your new tire: $19.54. Tell people about Discount Tire’s great insurance program! Woohoo!”

Twitter is an open forum so anyone who follows him (about 350 people) or me (about 2,000 people) might see the message. In addition, anyone who was searching for key terms like “discount tire” or “tire” might see the message as well.

To his surprise, he received the following tweet in reply from @discounttire: “Thanks for the shout out—glad we could help!”

I thought this was pretty clever marketing for any company, but especially a relatively low-tech company. My husband shared the reply from @discounttire with the following preface: “Brilliant marketing & use of Twitter + very happy customer.”

I honestly thought it would end there. He had complimented the company, they had thanked him and he acknowledged the marketing. What else was there to say? Then to my surprise, he got another tweet from @discounttire.

“Why, thank you. Checked out your site—you do beautiful work! Especially liked “Ironglass.” Ever do shows out this way?”

Suddenly the person behind @discounttire became real. We liked him and his taste in art. With just a few words, he enhanced our perception of his brand. We have always been fans of Discount Tire. Their service, prices, free tire rotation and warranty program keep us coming back. Now I have one more reason to go back: Somewhere in their corporate headquarters in Phoenix is a real person, who likes my husband’s art.

I have retold this story a number of times, each time mentioning Discount Tire by name. I have written articles online and now in print, retelling the experience. I can’t begin to track how many people have seen the story.

This can work for any company, in any industry. Your clients are online and talking about you. Do you know what they are saying? And before you dismiss Twitter and social media in general as a fad, look at the statistics. There are 65 million Facebook users and they are not all kids. Twitter, about 2 years old, already had more than 6 million users as of last spring.

The world is moving online. Do you have a strategy to talk to them there?

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Here are some ways to 'tweet' your way to marketing success:

• Choose your Twitter persona. Will it be you or your company? Some people have two identities, to keep the personal and business side separate. For me the two blend so I have one Twitter account.

• Select a user name. Keep it short—your user name counts as part of the 140-character limit for tweets. Long user names make it hard to repeat (RT) your messages. My Twitter ID is Roundpeg.

• Complete your profile. If you are using a variation of your name, share your full name so people who don’t know your “Twitter handle” can find you.

• Add a picture. You wouldn’t go to a cocktail party with a bag over your head, don’t expect people to make personal connections to a blank box.

• Tell something about yourself in the short bio section.

• Start tweeting. Don’t wait until you have lots of followers before you add updates. People are attracted to good content. If you don’t have any, they are less likely to follow you.

• Start following others. Twitter gets interesting when you are following at least 50 people.

• Get interactive. Reply to comments other people make or “retweet” (repeat) something someone else said. Use the search function to find people who are talking about things of interest to you or your company.

• Don’t spam. While it is OK to include business information (with links to your Web site), if you do it too often you will find people will stop following you. Think about your favorite TV show: If it includes five minutes of advertising and 25 minutes of content, the program is enjoyable to watch. If the balance shifts too much, you get annoyed or stop watching. The same is true about Twitter.

• Forget rules. Twitter is new. There are no firm rules, just guidelines that seem to work. My best advice: Follow the same etiquette you would use at a cocktail party. If you wouldn’t say it there, don’t say it on Twitter.   

• Be yourself. Have fun, share something, learn something, sell something!

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Ball is president of Roundpeg, a Carmel marketing firm, and president of Rainmakers, a local networking association. She can be reached at lorraine@roundpeg.biz.

 

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