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Gabor Szedlak is the Head of Marketing at Car Throttle, the internet's fastest growing car community

He grew Car Throttle's social presence from 5,000 to 5 million followers in less than 3 years. In addition to starting and growing social accounts, he spearheaded Car Throttle's transformation from publisher to niche community platform (currently boasting over 4m monthly active users). 

He's been heavily involved in the company's video strategy (1m YouTube subscribers / #1 UK auto channel), editorial direction (40m pageviews per month) and community management (300k comments and 80k posts per month).He's also heading up the company's expansion into other verticals, using their in-house tech platform.

Car Throttle is backed by reputable investors, including Passion Capital, Redalpine, James Bromley (MD, MailOnline), Peter Read (Partner, Google Ventures) and Blake Chandlee (VP of Global Partnerships, Facebook).

He graduated only 2 years ago, but he lives and breathes social media, tech and growth.

You can follow him on Twitter: @gszedlak

He will be live on May 10 starting 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which time he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • VO

    Veasna Onn

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Gabor. Congrats on the success and cheers to you. I'm building something similar with Liquor Hunt. You have any tips or advice as to how I would attract the first 1K users to liquorhunt.com?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Thanks Veasna! For us, acquisition via social channels (FB and Instagram) has worked really well. If you don’t run your own pages with millions of reach, paid influencer marketing is a good option to kickstart things and reach that critical mass. Identify big accounts and negotiate rates until you leave no money on the table.

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor,

    Amazing job on Car Throttle, the traction is seriously impressive.

    1) I've often thought about YouTube what initial challenges did you face growing your channel and did you hit periods of self doubt? I note some people only get between 500-1,000 views or were you better at cross marketing video content from the get go?

    2) How do you manage the growth you achieved, especially in a community driven platform where people like to feel heard - are their any automation secrets you'd be willing to share?

    3) Where do you think the future of social media marketing sits and how do you see Snapchat assisting Car Throttle's growth?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      1. Our YouTube has been fairly slow initially but 6 years of relentless posting and A/B testing resulted in 1 million subscribers. Social seeding certainly helped to speed things up but it was more about looking at the numbers and getting the content right.

      2. We have moderators around the world, around the clock and certain built-in filters to help.

      3. For us, social media marketing was great to drive growth in the early stages and increase topline stats (pageviews and uniques), but now we're focusing on user retention and on-platform engagement stats.

  • CD

    Chris DiNicolas

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor, thank you for doing this AMA.

    In decided what content to produce next, what lessons have you learned over the years?
    What was the one single thing that had the most impact on the growth of Car Throttle?
    What was one big mistake you made on this wild ride 5M followers?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Chris,

      When it comes to producing content to a niche audience, you need to hire writers who are “one of them” and know exactly what your users resonate with. If your goal is outright reach, your pieces need to be relatable and sharable. Remember that people share what they *want to be seen sharing* by their friends. Evoke feelings of “this is so true”, “that’s so me” and “I thought I was the only one”.

      The single thing that had the most impact on the growth of CT was when we stopped writing about cars our audience don’t care about / can’t afford, and started to focus on the lifestyle and cars they actually have.

      Biggest mistake I made was to abandon FB pages with 100k+ followers because I didn’t have the time to run them. Once their engagement drops it’s impossible to bring them back to life.

      4 Share
  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Gabor - Being so young in the field, where do you attribute your success? What qualities or knowledge do you think others who are in college right now could pursue to take a similar path as you?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Logan,

      I attribute my “success” (if we have to call it that) to being inquisitive and critical about everything I do. Reading books, blog posts and articles on a daily basis exposed me to a lot of information and let me learn from other people’s mistakes. College is an amazing place to experiment with business ideas with relatively low pressure.

  • AA

    Aldin A

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor,

    Thanks for being here!

    1)What does your marketing stack look like when it comes to gathering and analyzing data? Can you list them and explain your rational for them?

    2)Aside from growthhackers can you mention some of the resources you used to learn, and stay up to date with growth hacking and marketing?

    3)What tactics were used to start and grow the community and it wasn't as self sustaining as it is now?

    4)Do you have guidelines/rules in place for the community so it grows in a direction you hope for it to grow?
    How do you hold on to the essence of what makes the community special, as it grows in size?

    5))Can you talk about some of the challenges of scaling the community and how you've overcome them?

    Thanks again,
    Shaker

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Shaker,

      Thanks for your questions.

      1. In addition to using GA, we use keen.io to dig into platform statistics and usage

      2. I have Feedly setup on my phone so I go through a dozens of blogs (Digiday, Techcrunch, etc.) every morning on my way to work. I also follow some amazing news letters (Andrew Chen, Ben Evans, Media Redef, Verticals Collective, Mattermark, etc.).

      3. Initially we had to spend a lot of time manually creating content that we wanted to see from the community. It took time to establish the culture, but once we had critical mass it all paid off. We have a big cross-platform social presence that we could leverage to kickstart our communities, so that sped things up quite a bit.

      4. Again, we made sure from day 1 that the direction and culture was what we wanted it to be. Some communities needed more moderation than others but we had people around the clock to take care of that. After a while the community becomes self-regulating and low-quality content filters itself out from the feeds.

      5/ As our community grew, a lot of users started to complain that “CT is not the same” or “CT doesn’t feel like a family anymore”. Instead of trying to hide those posts, we took the time and personally replied to the threads and figured out with the users what exactly needed fixing. Keeping our handful of power users happy was an integral part of our community growth.

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor,

    Great to have you in this inspiring GH community.

    1) Did you grow Car Throttle's social following purely organically?
    2) What is the split organic/paid, if relevant, for your social following?
    3) What's the one thing to do right to grow social following in your opinion?
    4) Is there a direct correlation between the scale of your social following and your growth north star metric? If so, which one?

    Thanks!

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Arsene,

      Great questions.

      1. Yeah, it’s all organic, apart from the odd £10 experiments (that taught us that paid distribution is not for us).
      2. -
      3. 4 years ago it was the perfect time to grow huge Facebook pages. It was easy to guess the algorithm and there was a strong social loop ("your friend liked this post”) to fuel growth. Right now, it’s all about native video (on Facebook) and tag-able content (on Instagram).
      4. There has been a direct correlation between our editorial page view numbers and social following. Our KPIs however are more centred around app downloads, user signups and on-platform engagement. For these, having an amazing social reach is not enough in itself.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        How did you come to the conclusion that you needed an app? Why wasn't the desktop/mobile site enough?

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor,

    So glad that this finally happened:)

    1. I've noticed that Car Throttle is a semi-open community, meaning you can see some content without registration, but it seems you need to sign up in order to view all content. Why is that vs. completely open to non-registered members?

    2. At Car Throttle, do you have a north star metric(s)? What is your system & process to improve this metric (s)?

    3. Although people naturally have an interest for car, there are also many car forums out there. What do you think make Car Throttle stand out as a community? Why do so many people go to Car Throttle? (Side note, I read that Car Throttle transited from a publishing platform, I wonder does that "design" and "editorial" piece actually contribute to success of community?)

    Thank you so much!
    Hila

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Hila,

      Thanks for the opportunity. I’ve been following GrowthHackers for a while and it’s my pleasure to do an AMA here.

      Our #1 traffic driver is still Facebook so it makes sense for us to keep those single pages accessible to non-members. To access the rest of the platforms, users have to login so we can create customised feeds and re-target them through notifications and email.

      We focus on platform engagement (signups/posts/comments) and the ratios between MAU,WAU and DAU numbers.

      Car forums have traditionally terrible UX (especially on mobile) while Facebook Groups lack crucial elements for community discussions (e.g.: search). Most of these places are restricted to a specific make or model and don’t allow users to explore what’s going on in the car world outside of their niche. Car Throttle is still a fairly wide community, bringing together owners of all cars from all corners of the world.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        over 3 years ago #

        Very interesting to hear that Facebook is the #1 channel, can you share what are other social channels that are meaningful to Car Throttle and what are the order?

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        What strategies, if any, do you employ to get new users to engage post signup? What's the idea Day 1 and/or Week 1 actions that predict any longer terms retention (if at all)?

      • GS

        Gabor Szedlak

        over 3 years ago #

        Facebook - if your page rank is high - can be fantastic for traffic (we get over 300k daily pageviews from link posts). Instagram and Snapchat is great for quick audience mobilisation (e.g. let people know we released a video). In terms of reliable, long term branding a robust YouTube channel helped us massively.

  • AH

    Agnes Haryuni

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor!
    What is the biggest failure you ever had in paid advertising and how do you fix it?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Hi Agnes!

      We haven’t spent much on paid acquisition, so never had a massive failure. I’d say that if you promote through influencers, give them enough creative freedom to come up with a campaign that’ll resonate with their followers.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        What's been the strategy that has worked best with identifying and then engaging with influencers for you?

  • AS

    Adam Szabo

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gábor,

    It's inspiring to see a fellow Hungarian having great success!

    I've been blogging for a while, and now I decided to start a YouTube series. Any advices on growing a YouTube channel from zero?

    Thanks,
    Ádám

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Thanks for the kind words Adam!

      I’ve seen countless of YouTube channels shoot up from 0 to thousands, just because of one video that’s gone viral. Although it’s hard to reverse engineer viral content, try to invest in something that could be picked up on social media / blogs / news. Then put a couple of dollars behind it (influencer marketing) to get the ball rolling.

  • JJ

    Jacob James

    over 3 years ago #

    1) What would you say was the most important thing you did to overtake your rivals?
    2) What would you say to a small community start up looking to compete, like yourselves, in a competitive niche?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Most players in the auto scene were old and slow moving. We were the first ones to properly adopt social media and cater to a millennial audience.

      Starting an online content business these days is incredibly hard. I’d keep a look out for up and coming platforms (e.g. Snapchat) and establish a strong position on those to have the edge over established brands.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 3 years ago #

    Hey Gabor - very cool to have you on.

    I'm just amazed at how the various properties are managed.
    You have communities on YT, FB, Twitter.
    How is your team structured around making all of this engagement possible?
    Also what tools are you using to make all of this easier to manage?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      We have a video team of 1 and use freelancers to run most of our social pages. We don't use any 3rd party tools to manage our social accounts, although we did experiment with Buffer and Zapier for certain tasks (great tools).

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        over 3 years ago #

        That's interesting that you use freelancers. How have you been able to overcome the concern of these folks not being "on brand"?

        Also you're possibly the first person I've come across that's responsible for such a big property that decided to not use tools to manage social accounts? Can you talk more about why you found such tools to not be helpful?

      • GS

        Gabor Szedlak

        over 3 years ago #

        Anuj: At the end of the day the only thing that matters is content, native to the platform. What works on FB doesn't work on Twitter. What works on Instagram doesn't work on FB. Cross-platform automations save time but kill engagement. For scheduling, FB's tools are still best for us.

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    over 3 years ago #

    It mentions you are going to spin out the model across different industry verticals, do you think the recipe will be easily replicable?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      We don't think it'll be easy, but as long as the core product works and drives organic growth within cars, there is no reason why we can't make it work with similar communities like bikes, gaming, etc.

  • PV

    pat vedder

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor.
    We are building a social community/platform similar to carthrottle (but in a different industry) and we have built up a large following on Twitter and FB, etc..
    What are the most important factors in order to push our followers from our social media pages to our actual website?
    Also how important are the first 50 people that engage our website and how much personal attention should we pay them to ensure they actively participate, love the product, and tell their friends?

    Thanks

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      Converting social following into user signups is challenging and will be a numbers game at the end of the day. Make sure the landing pages encourage users to stick (e.g.: scroll into feed after article) and spark engagement. It's always good to finish an article with a question to get those comments going.

      If you do everything to make your power users happy, they will become your amplifiers and most valuable content creators.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 3 years ago #

    One more:
    Could you talk about a particular growth experiment that was a really big win or provided some really insightful learning?

    • GS

      Gabor Szedlak

      over 3 years ago #

      While we are an online car community, we decided to do something in "real life" and participated in the Gumball 3000 road rally. We wrapped a Nissan GT-R in Emojis (EmojiTR) and attracted hundreds of thousands of cameras during during the 8 days of the rally.

      YouTube and Instagram was filled with pictures of our car and people talked about Car Throttle more than ever. Sometimes it's good to go above and beyond and personally meet the fans.

      4 Share
  • SR

    shahnur rahman

    over 3 years ago #

    Hi Gabor,

    Thanks for participating in the AMA!

    Being the head of marketing what was the most dangerous marketing mistake you made in the recent time which could have caused you a lot of money? or loss of business? And how did you recover from it? I mean fixed it?

    Eagerly waiting for your reply!

    Cheers,
    Sayed

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