Founded in 1923 in St. Louis, French Gerleman has grown from a
small motor repair shop to a regional distributor with five regional
branch locations and a $20 million inventory.
Throughout its history, the company has focused on its customers’ success and profitability, making the leap into social media
a natural progression for the firm. “By 2011, we knew we needed
to join the social media conversation and saw Facebook, Twitter,
and LinkedIn as new tools for communicating with customers, suppliers, and other industry participants, especially the younger industry members who have embraced social media,” said Kim Mathes,
marketing communications manager.
The reasons for joining all three of the major social media sites
at the same time were their popularity and relevance to the audience. “As part of the decision-making process, we conducted surveys of our customers and employees to gauge which sites they
were using. Additionally, through our research, we learned that
Facebook has more a personal tone, LinkedIn is designed for the
business side of communication, and Twitter tends to be fast paced
and more fluid,” Mathes observed.
Since each platform is different, French Gerleman strives to
ensure that its messages will be relevant and timely and will fit the
style of each site. “We aim to post to Twitter at least twice a day, to
Facebook three to five times a week, and to LinkedIn at least once
a week,” Mathes said. These numbers, of course, can vary, depending on the feedback and questions received from followers in
response. The posts themselves cover material such as events;
promotions; open houses; counter and customer appreciation
days; career opportunity and new employee announcements; and
product news, information, and technical help. “Most news and informational posts make it onto our Facebook and Twitter accounts,
but we reserve LinkedIn for more formal communications,” Mathes
While focusing on the basics of social media posts, French Gerleman is simultaneously engaging customers, prospects, employees,
and manufacturers in active conversation. In one special area, the
company is using social media to engage directly with manufacturers’ marketing teams on a daily or weekly basis to further cement
the relationships and advance the manufacturers’ messages to
employees and customers. As part of this effort, the company will
tag suppliers in its posts. “We have not seen this being done often
in other industry social media posts,” Mathes said.
In addition, the company cross-references its website and social
media sites so that posts on social media sites will link the follower
back to the website for more detailed information. “By their nature,
social media sites limit the amount of content that can be included
in a post, making links to the website for more detailed information
critical,” noted Mathes.
Overall, employees, manufacturers, and customers have been
posting positive feedback. Other metrics, such as retweets and
likes, are also demonstrating followers’ increasing engagement with
the sites. “Likes, follows, and other forms of positive engagement
have maintained continuous growth since our social media sites
launched,” she added.
In addition to the “Big 3,” French Gerleman has accounts on
Google+ and Instagram but is not currently active on them. “We
wanted to have them ready and at our disposal for the time when
we do want to broaden our social media activities,” Mathes explained. Until then, the company plans to continue to keep its social
media presence moving forward and to focus on engaging customers, employees, and suppliers in more two-way conversations. ;
Darlene Bremer is a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md.,
and a frequent contributor to “tED” magazine. She can be reached
FRENCH GERLEMAN GROWS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Executives who don’t understand the
potential impact on their business are
not providing the validation, direction,
and resources necessary to move toward
becoming a digital/social business. It is
those companies that are going to be left
TO USING SOCIAL MEDIA
Businesspeople avoid social media for a
variety of reasons; here are just a few:
Reason No. 1. “Social media is just
a fad.” Social media is not a fad; it’s
how we now communicate and connect
with one another—in business and in
our personal lives. Consider the follow-
• Twitter has 271 million monthly
• Five hundred million tweets are
sent each day.
• Seventy-eight percent of Twitter-active Internet users are on mobile
• Five hundred million tweets are
sent each day.
• Facebook currently has 1. 23 billion
monthly active users.
• Facebook currently has 1.07 billion
mobile active users.
• Eight hundred and twenty-nine
million people log on to Facebook every
• LinkedIn currently has more than
313 million registered members.
• Two new people join LinkedIn
• You Tube has more than 1 billion
unique users each month.
• More than 6 billion hours of video
are watched every month.
Don’t assume all these users are college kids or teenagers. According to the
Pew Internet Project ( pewinternet.org;
as of January 2014), 82% of Internet
users between the ages of 30 and 49
use social media. Of Internet users ages