I have an issue with Firestone tires. So, I figured I’d go on-line to get some information. you know – like everyone else does. You would think that in today’s instant access/instant feedback world a company the size of Firestone would be savvy enough to use this to their advantage.

You would be wrong.

I went to their website and found that the only way I could contact them was via snail mail or telephone. not a single email contact on their site. So, I clicked on the prominently displayed Facebook link figuring that – certainly – this would be a good place to ask a question, get some feedback, start a conversation. The sort of stuff Social Media is all about.

I was wrong. Here is how Firestone Tires is trying to manage Social Media:

The official Firestone Tires Fan Page

This page belongs to you. Feel free to share pictures, ask questions, answer questions asked by other fans, throw out an idea or simply say hi.

We ask that you keep the conversation on topic, relevant and safe for all users. 

1. This page is moderated and we reserve the right to remove content or posts that are: 
* Off Topic. 
* Personal Attacks. 
* Illegal 
* Foul Language 

2. Our Fan Page is not designed as a customer support tool. We understand occasionally you may have questions regarding warranty, product specifications and retail locations carrying our products. We will strive to follow up with all comments left on this page but the best place for these requests is on our Contact Us page at FirestoneTire.com 

3. We reserve the right to change these guidelines at any time at our sole discretion. 

In short we ask that you respect other users, stay on topic and have fun.

– Chris, Michael and Angela of Bridgestone Americas Social Media Team

Show us some love by telling your friends about the Firestone Fan Page

Is seems they want to control the conversation. They claim this is NOT a customer support tool. Then, they ask me to go to the website for contact us info. They are doing their level best to make it difficult to talk to them.

I hate to break the news to the good folks at Firestone but Social Media IS a customer support tool. Do they think that 9000+ people liked the Facebook page because they want to read stories about the Firestone racing team?

No! We all know the #1 reason someone likes your business page is because they are looking for a deal (curiously absent from the Firestone page). Yes, they are also looking for information about products and services. But – they also want to ask questions and vent their concerns. Whether Firestone wants that or not is immaterial because they do not control the conversation.

As part of their “house rules” they encourage us to ask questions. Then, they tell us it is not a customer support tool. What kind of questions do they expect us to ask? If you take a look at their page you will see that Firestone rarely responds to any fan posts.

This is not the point of a Facebook page! The cornerstone of any relationship is the free flow of communication between parties. In business, you have to listen. You need your customers more than they need you – especially in an industry as competitive as tires.

I am frequently amazed by how ineffectively major brands handle their social interactions (Starbucks also comes to mind). Yes, Social Media is still in the trial-and-error stage. And, yes, we are still figuring out how to best engage and excite our customers. However, there are some basic rules of interaction that need to be followed.

More importantly, the Social Media model puts the consumer in control. They do not have to like you. They are free to ignore you. Unless you fill their needs or pique their interests they have many other ways to occupy their time.

Make engagement easy. Make it inviting. Make it friendly.

I have said this many times – the bigger brands have the bigger budgets. This allows them to provide us with valuable lessons on best practices or epic failures. While I won’t put Firestone in the “epic” category they have a long way to go before they can be considered a success.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist, SMThree