How did you get into the automotive industry, and what's your role?
I'm Nathanael Greklek, and I work for the Mohawk Auto Group in the Albany area of upstate New York. It's quite the vast state, you know?
Absolutely, it's got its own charm.
Definitely. I entered the automotive world in a roundabout way. I was initially working with a for-profit giving company called Twill. The concept was simple: buy a product, and they'd donate items like blankets and hats to a charity of your choice. Mohawk Honda collaborated with Twill, sponsoring a “Vehicle of Warmth” to distribute these donations.
During my time with Twill, we produced a couple of videos for Mohawk Honda. That's when John Higgins, who is now a Service Advisor at Mohawk, noticed my tech affinity. He suggested I join as a delivery specialist at Mohawk Honda, seeing their need in the digital space.
I’ve always had a knack for content creation, I would make these fun videos with my friends using my classic flip camera. It’s nostalgic. Then my girlfriend, now my wife, gifted me a GoPro Hero 3, and I started exploring even more.
When I was at the dealership, I realized the potential of digital branding. I felt the need to humanize the dealership experience. Andy Guelcher's, one of the key figures at Mohawk, encouraged me to carve my own niche in the field. Taking his advice, I pitched myself as the Chief Digital Branding Leader. I was inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk’s unorthodox titles. I wanted to be seen as a leader rather than just a manager.
That’s quite innovative. You essentially created your own position?
Exactly! I walked into the General Manager’s office, handed over my proposal, and he was on board. It was a surreal moment. My vision was for every dealership to consistently produce content.
For my role, I invested time learning from content creators like Casey Neistat and Peter McKinnon. My goal was and remains to humanize the brand, showcasing the real stories, and ensuring our message resonates.
On a scale from the initial vision to the ideal version of this branding endeavor, where do you stand? Has the original vision shifted or are you still heading towards it?
You know, you'd think you'd need two people for this, but you actually just need a solid team. Having two individuals is ideal, but one can work as long as they have a strong team behind them.
I currently have two at Honda. One has transitioned from content creation to a role focused on website and social media strategy. He evaluates the effectiveness of our content and the website. We also bring in interns from schools. Then there’s the Chief Director of Operations for both stores. Her daughter has interned with us and they collaborate on content.
We also have two full-time editors who handle all our video and photo editing – one posts content for Chevrolet, while the other handles the Honda store. It’s all about identifying and leveraging everyone’s strengths while keeping them integrated into the team. I'm currently looking to add another member to the Chevrolet team. We're expanding and I'd love to have more hands on deck.
When building an in-house creative team, especially in the context of a dealership, do you usually look internally or do you mostly hire from outside?
It's a mix. I've definitely brought in new people, but I’m always open to lateral movements within the team. Take my video editor as an example. He started as a Delivery Specialist but wasn’t quite the right fit there. We saw his potential in editing, and now a majority of the content for Mohawk Chevrolet is edited by him. Another member, Jenny, joined us because her dad worked here. There are opportunities for lateral movement; it's about recognizing talent and potential.
I firmly believe that what you do is pivotal for the advancement of the industry. How do you go about discovering the innate talent within your existing team? How do you ensure that each person is passionate about their role, which in turn ensures content made with love?
You've got it right; it's about giving everyone the chance to do what they love. I was given an opportunity because of my passion, and I believe in doing the same for others. If there's a task that isn’t someone's forte, I look for someone who thrives in that area. The result? The community gets content crafted with genuine passion.
How do you then demonstrate the tangible value your team brings, particularly in terms of actual car sales?
It's not as direct as sales numbers, but it's clear that a strong social media presence elevates our community recognition. This month at Mohawk, we had over 930 posts with over a million impressions. Impressions are just the start; what really matters are the engagements. This shows how many are genuinely interacting with our content. Following a contextual model, like that of Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s about churning out as much relevant and tailored content as possible to engage and retain the audience’s interest.
Inside a dealership, it seems like social media isn't just a tool to make sales, but rather to create a certain kind of environment. Would you say the platform sets the context?
It really comes down to the consumer. I focus on humanizing, educating, and entertaining potential buyers. They might not be in the market for a car yet, but they're definitely curious about the faces behind the dealership. A common misconception is that dealers are out to get you, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, I post about cars, but what really matters is showing who the customer will meet, the ambience, and the overall experience. There are times I can't be a part of a video, especially during busy periods, but we do our best to emphasize the real people in the dealership.
Your perspective is refreshing. Often, we equate 'consumer' with a simple transaction. But consumption is also about engaging with content. It seems you're inspired by Gary Vee's thoughts on this?
Oh, absolutely. I've been listening to Gary Vee since 2014. He has this futuristic yet realistic approach. He doesn't stick to what he once believed, but adapts and changes because that's the nature of social media. He's not predicting success – he's observing it. My approach mirrors this: I observe, formulate, and execute without getting stuck in the planning phase. As content creators, it's easy to obsess over perfection. But sometimes, you have to just go for it.
I completely agree. Striving for perfection can sometimes be a hindrance. As a writer, I can relate to that. Now, before we wrap up, can you tell me if working in the automotive industry is more than just a job to you?
It really is. I run a group called the "Automotive Creative Collective" for automotive content creators. I wanted to show that there's more to the dealership than just lease specials. In this community, we share, give feedback, and support each other. It's a space for improvement and collaboration.
That sounds like an incredible initiative. I'm sure many readers will be in touch looking for an invite!
Lets hope so.