Social Media for Car Dealers: An Interview with Richard Valenta

We had the opportunity to sit down with Richard Valenta, CEO of TK Carsites, an automotive internet marketing firm.

TK Carsites Social MediaAs 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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Read more about Automotive Social Media on this Social Media Blog.

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  1. The one thing that has survived on the WWW is human nature. People like to do business with people that they like and everyone wants to have a “friend” in the car business so it might as well be you.

    Relationship based selling has been the cornerstone of most long term successful marketing platforms in the auto industry and other retail verticals. In the real world these relationships were developed through community networking at Chambers of Commerce, Kiwanis and the Boy Scout Troop that an auto dealer supported. Social networking on the Internet has taken old school networking to the next level and the associated technologies that crash through the glass wall with viral marketing channels and relevant information distributed through videos and linked personalized offers vs. hard sell retail messages suggest that the trend will continue. After all, what are friends for!

  2. Great points Philip!

    While the auto dealers who “get it” already understand the relationship building nature of social media, many others do just see this as an advertising source.

    I think the dealer’s social media plan has to begin with proper expectations of a long-term branding strategy coupled with customer (and potential customer) interaction. Surely, the end goal will be to build brand and ultimately sell more cars, that goal will only be achieved through addressing this medium the right way. Listen. Engage. Create. The results will follow.

  3. OK, so old school marketing is sneaking up on those deer (quietly drinking from a brook) and hoping to grab one! Social marketing is living at the brook, feeding the deer, talking with the deer, making friends with the deer, becoming “deer”. Got it! I’m in. I can change! But I still like chasing after one now and then and so do Dealers!

    On a serious note, GREAT article Richard, mean that…