The social media magnifying glass

I’d like to thank Pete’s Tire Barn for today’s lesson on how, thanks to social media, treating a customer well can be worth its weight in marketing gold.

A few weeks back, when I was getting my riding lawnmower ready for spring, I found that the front tire had gone flat over the winter. It was a tubeless tire and, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t create enough air pressure for the tire to seal itself to the rim.

I brought the tire to Pete’s – having no prior experience with the business – because it was the closest tire shop to my house. I expected to end up paying a few bucks for getting the tire inflated.

The guy at the front desk took the tire out back, filled it with air, and handed it back to me in about 42 seconds. When I asked him how much, he said it was on the house.

Granted, it took him all of 42 seconds, but I’ve dealt with places in the past that would still charge you for something minor. If he asked me for two or three bucks, I’d have gladly paid and gone on my way; after all, he provided a service that I couldn’t replicate on my own. (Heck, I had to pay 75 cents for air at a mini-mart only to find out that their compressor couldn’t provide any more pressure than my hand pump!). Now, if he asked me for $10, I would have felt taken advantage of and made a mental note not to go back there for anything.

Instead, for the “price” of some free air and 42 seconds labor, Pete’s Tire Barn got a shout-out from me on Facebook (and in this blog post and in the link I’ll put on Twitter to this blog post). On top of that, Pete’s is on my radar the next time I need tires.

In the past, an experience like this may have stayed with the individual customer, but now, thanks to the magnifying glass of social media, these touchpoints can have far wider reach.

In fact, as I was thinking about whether this experience was enough to hang a blog post on, two more examples appeared a few hours apart on my Facebook news feed. One friend was thanking an auto glass company that replaced his six-month-old windshield for free after it was cracked by a rock and another friend was calling out a gym for making her jump through ridiculous hoops to cancel her membership.

Both of these messages had a greater impact – for better and for worse – on my future buying decisions than any commercial, print ad, website, billboard or direct mail piece I’ll ever see from either of these businesses. My experience at Pete’s may have a similar impact on some of my friends.

So, what’s the lesson here? It’s obvious: Businesses that understand this will own the future.


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