We had the opportunity to sit down with Richard Valenta, CEO of TK Carsites, an automotive internet marketing firm.
As car dealers progress through Web 2.0 and begin to embrace its potential in marketing, branding, and customer relations, many have started off on the wrong foot. The traditional thought process surrounding the automotive industry and many other verticals is based on “push marketing”. Social media is a different beast – the more you push, the worse off you are sometimes.
“The goal is not to set up a Facebook or a Twitter account and start pushing inventory and specials and coupons,” Valenta said. “The goal is to interact with people in the community, gain that credibility and utilize it as a place to soft-shoe your way into advertising your products and services.”
This is often a tough concept for business owners to grasp. Their dedication to making the next sale is often the thing that hurts them the most in social media. Unlike many marketing platforms, social media is one that requires connection. You can buy PPC campaigns on Google and know that anyone in your designated area searching for your products will likely find you.
In social media, the only people hearing your message are those that have made a connection with you. Twitter friends, Facebook fans, etc., are the only ones who can hear your message when you broadcast it in social media. The problem is that if all you’re doing is broadcasting your marketing message without engaging with individuals, you won’t be able to make many connections.
“One of the biggest mistakes that I see dealers making right now is being very aggressive with advertising in a space that is not meant for advertising.” ~ Richard Valenta
In the car business, the natural tendency to show everyone their inventory can be their downfall. “There are some [dealers] that set it up and start pushing out inventory and specials constantly and those are the people that basically drive away any of their friends or followers,” Valenta said.
Even though social media has been around for years, it is only within the last year that it has truly taken hold in the automotive industry. Just as there were dealers who did not have websites a few years ago, there are dealers today who do not have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, or Flickr, and there are even more who do not have a dealership blog.
“In my opinion, social media is in its infancy stages for car dealers, and I think that social media is going to be the next big thing,” Valenta continued. “It’s going to be the thing that really catapults these dealers into a whole new level.”
Beyond marketing and advertising, there is another concern facing car dealers that can be perfectly handled through social media. In then next part of this interview, Valenta discusses how social media can be an excellent car dealer branding and reputation management tool.
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