How I Bought a Ford Explorer via Twitter and Email

In an earlier post titled I’m Buying a 2011 Ford Explorer in Madison, WI. Who Wants my Business?, I noted that I was in the market for a 2011 Ford Explorer, and that I was turning it into a case study. I posted this on Twitter a couple hours prior to the blog post:

I was able to find three local Ford dealerships on Twitter – @KayserFord, @MiddletonFord and @CapitolFordKia (which has since been sold). I expected one of them to earn my business, but only if they chose not to sit around the dealership on a Friday afternoon waiting for me to walk through the door. As Chris Brogan said in his article titled Buy a Car Off the Internet?

“The people who LISTEN for business beat the people waiting around for business to find them.”

Two replies

Several hours after the initial tweet, I received two Twitter replies. The first was a direct message from Middleton Ford. It didn’t contain a contact name, email address, or any other information that would help me continue the conversation, so I replied via DM asking for the name and email address of the sender.

Replying to me via DM was a mistake on the part of the salesperson at Middleton Ford. It did nothing to show that they are responsive and engaging on Twitter. I was the only one who saw their reply. To the rest of the world, it looked like they were ignoring me.

The other reply came from @MikeRobards, tweeting from his personal account on behalf of @UptownMotors.

Mike Robards

This one caught my attention

I have to admit I wasn’t very excited at first about dealing with a dealership in Milwaukee. It’s an hour away from Madison, and I really preferred to give my business to a local dealership. I’m also not a huge fan of the reply coming from Mike’s personal account rather than the dealer’s account. Much like the DM from Middleton Ford, it looks to the rest of the world like Uptown Motors isn’t responsive or engaging on Twitter.

I liked what Mike had to say, though, and really liked having a name and a face to associate with his very well written @reply. I replied publicly, telling him I’d be in touch, and I started putting together my wish list for the vehicle I wanted. I also posted the following:

Capitol Kayser

I sent a DM to @MikeRobards requesting his email addresses, because it would be impossible to communicate my needs 140 characters at a time. My hope at this point was to communicate privately with Mike via email. Later that night, I emailed both Mike Robards at Uptown Motors and the salesman at Middleton Ford with my list of specs.

Day Two

The next morning (Saturday) before 10 am, I received an email reply from Mike at Uptown Motors, and we were off to the races. We exchanged 10 emails (5 each) that day, all of which were sent from and read on my Blackberry while I sat in a lawn chair at my daughter’s softball tournament. By 3:30 pm we had reached an agreement on a price for a 2012 Ford Explorer Limited.

Mike was well aware of my preference to do the entire deal without talking on the phone or visiting the dealership, so he agreed to give me a preliminary appraisal of my trade based on photos I would provide by email.

When I asked Mike how he found my original tweet, he said he found it by searching on TweetDeck for the keyword ‘Explorer’. He explained that he tries to “listen for opportunities”. He also admitted that he probably got a little lucky as well!

Sometimes you make your own luck

While I was negotiating via email with Mike all day on Saturday, I got the first email from the salesman at Middleton Ford at 12:30 pm . All it said was

“I have a full plate today. First thing Monday I’ll have all the pricing for you. Have a good weekend.”

Oops. I hope he had the sale of a 2012 Ford Explorer Limited on his full plate that day, because his response guaranteed he wasn’t going to get my business.

It gets better

On Monday morning (three days after my initial tweet) I finally heard from @KayserFord for the first time. Here’s what the salesman at Kayser Ford had to say, and my response:


Also on Monday I received an email from someone at Middleton Ford. The salesman had her send me a scanned document for a 2012 Explorer Limited with my required specs and a price written on it. Mike Robards from Uptown Motors had probably asked me at least 20 questions during our email exchange two days earlier, and this salesman just scribbled a price on a vehicle invoice and had someone else scan it and email it to me. Still too busy to put any effort into selling me a car, and probably upset that I wouldn’t do business his way by coming into the dealership for a test drive.


Five days after reaching an agreed price on the 2012 Explorer, I provided Mike at Uptown Motors with a link to an online gallery containing 71 photos of my trade-in. After a little negotiation, we reached an agreement on the trade value exactly one week after agreeing on the price of the Explorer. All that was left to do was to place the order for my new Explorer.

Done deal!

Two weeks to the day after my initial tweet, I scanned a signed contract and credit apps and emailed them to Mike. I also left him a voice mail message with my credit card information for the down payment. They ordered the vehicle, and I took delivery 7 weeks later. That was my first visit to Uptown Motors, and my first time actually talking to Mike Robards and meeting him in person.

Highly recommended

If you’re somewhere within a reasonable driving distance of Madison or Milwaukee, WI, Mike Robards and the crew at Uptown Motors in Milwaukee get my highest recommendation. Believe it or not, this was Mike’s first sale, and I’m pretty sure both he and the dealership learned a lot about the potential for selling cars just by paying attention, listening and engaging on social media channels, and by demonstrating a willingness to accomodate customers like me who don’t want to buy the way they might prefer to sell.

Here’s how you can reach Mike Robards

Twitter: @MikeRobards
Work phone: 414-771-9000  Ext. 103

Here’s where you can find Uptown Motors

Twitter: @UptownMotors


Any questions? I’d be happy to answer them. Just post in the comments below.


  1. Rod Thurley says

    As a professional automobile sales trainer, I’m sad to say the lack of responses are “par for the course”. The motivation, or lack there of, is still rampant in our industry and no matter if I spent 1 hour or 3 days training the social media aspects of the business, most sales people are either too lazy to do it or simply don’t “get it” in regards to this being a credible source for prospects and income! Great article and I shall be sharing it with my students to try and reinforce to power it carries.

    • says

      Thanks Rod. As someone who trains insurance agents how they can add social media to their marketing mix, I can relate to your frustration with auto salespeople. Just today, I showed an agent with my company how easy it is to find leads on Twitter by finding 5-6 of them within a 25 mile radius of his office in Colorado. What he does with the information has yet to be seen.

  2. Professor Carguy says

    Hello a little late to the party here, hope you are enjoying your new Explorer Collin, imo it is a world class auto from a world class manufacturer.  A colleague at an auto finance company with net income in excess of 1.8 billion dollars in 2011 sent me a link to your site.  He’s interested in my take on your experiment regarding Twitter and the purchase of your new Explorer.  Normally I would just read the information that’s given and provide that feedback, but in this case I decided to engage you and some of your readers for various reasons.  It looks like in June 2011 you decided to start shopping for a new 2011 Explorer and turn the experience into a case study.  You showcased a statement from Chris Brogan that

    “The people who LISTEN for business beat the people waiting around for business to find them”.

    That statement is absolutely 100% true, but very vague and general in nature.

    You mention facebook, twitter, and 3 local dealers, but that you’re not interested in dealing with them if they’re  just sitting there waiting for you to walk through the door. Then you posed the question…

    “What do you think?  Is it possible to negotiate a fair deal on a new car without any face-to face meetings or phone calls?

    The answer to that question is yes and it’s been going on for years.  So before I get started, was this the beginning of a real case study on buying a vehicle via internet?  Or was it about finding someone on twitter to buy a car from?

    • says

      Hmmmm. I’m not sure how to answer that question, Professor. I guess my goal was to reward a local dealer that was listening on the social media channels, starting with Twitter, and willing to engage on my terms. It only took a few hours for one of them to find me and to work with me.

      • Professor Carguy says

        It took a few hours to get a conversation started, you admitted that you couldn’t really get far via twitter and did most of the deal via email.  Then you had to travel, you did complete the purchase, not from a local dealer and are now back to square one with respect to having a good working relationship with a local dealer for the rest of the time you drive your new Explorer.  What now?  Are you going to send out another tweet about who wants to give you an oil change?  Are you going to drive back to the selling dealer every time you need maintenance?  You found someone to buy a car from on twitter and alienated your local dealers.  That’s it.  There is no case study here.  There is no experiment here.  There is no efficient way to buy a car online here.  You were determined to buy an Explorer from a twitter user, who responded to you publicly and were willing to go to great lengths and waste a lot of time doing it.

        I did my own little case study, put myself in the shoes of someone whose priority was working with a local dealer, googled Madison Ford dealers, clicked on one, was taken to their website, saw a button for live chat, they were listening and offering to get the ball rolling via email.  Took about 60 seconds.  That’s the world I live in.  Then some of you don’t understand why the new guy got his first sale instead of a seasoned pro?  It’s because he isn’t as busy as they are.  Your “oops” comment about the guy who had a full plate on a Saturday?  You hope he had “a”?  I hope he had 3.  Saturday is the busiest day of the week at most dealerships, now think back to your delivery.  If your salesman did a good job going over all the equipment and technology…  that took awhile.  Your assumptions / presumptions that seasoned pros not using social media are sitting around waiting for business to find them or that don’t have a pretty full schedule on a Saturday are not rational.  I’ll let you and your readers chew on that for awhile before class resumes :-)


      • says

        I stopped reading when you said I’m “back to square one with respect to having a good working relationship with a local dealer for the rest of the time you drive your new Explorer.” That’s ludicrous.

      • Professorcarguy says

        No problem, I’m taking the time to do this more for the benefit of readers who may want an efficient way to do online business with a local dealer because this isn’t it.  It’s obvious that your real objective was not  what you posed.  So that means you’ve established a relationship with a local dealer for maintenance?  Or possibly you already had one from a previous Ford, but that doesn’t make sense either.  I obviously don’t know your automotive history.  I can only comment on your words and actions.  But c’mon man!!!  Read it!  This whole thing is ludicrous and I took the time to read it.

        Are you ready to discuss the way you gathered invoice cost info from 3rd party websites that gave you incomplete information on the cost of your Explorer?  Then you dragged the industry through the mud about a “separate cost” of advertising that in reality is no more separate than any other cost associated with the vehicle.  You just didn’t know about it because your 3rd party sites didn’t educate you on it.  Some of the statements from you and others in that blog are as ludicrous as they come.

      • says

        I’m sorry “Professorcarguy”, but I’m not going to engage with a troll who hides behind an anonymous name and email address. Unfortunately for you, that also negates any credibility or influence you might have had with my other readers.

        What are you afraid of? Are you worried that you might lose customers in your local Columbus, Ohio market because of the way you act online?

        If you don’t like the way I handled my car purchase that’s
        your prerogative. If you really wish to engage in a constructive dialog, then post your comments under a real name and email address, and leave your unproductive negative comments out of the conversation.

        If you can’t do that, then any additional comments from you will be deleted, so there’s really no need to waste your time typing them.

      • Professorcarguy says

        Collin you make me laugh :-)  My credibility comes from intelligence, common sense, logic…   Things like that.  I never made this personal.  I don’t care what your name is because it’s irrelevant.  My name is irrelevant.  I predicted that you would be afraid to engage in constructive dialog and try to deflect from the topic at hand by acting like my name really meant anything.  As far as influencing somebody, I’m quite certain that I already have.  So since you obviously don’t really wish to have constructive dialog about this I’ll go back to my original….  Sincere wish for many happy miles in your new Explorer.  Ford has done so many things right in the last decade and has a very bright future ahead.  I think it’s a great story of American manufacturing once again, albeit on a global scale more than ever.  Peace to you and your family.

  3. says

    This is a fascinating read, Collin. It just goes to show that those willing to broaden their horizons a bit can reap the rewards of it, as they should.

    Mike was really on the ball and I hope he gains a ton of business from this post.

  4. Anonymous says

    Hi Mike, my name is Tiki Tsakiris; Social Media Director for the Del Grande Dealer Group  in San Jose, ca. I just wanted you to know how impressed I was with the article. It is a piece I am planning on sharing with all 11 of our General Managers as well as our executive staff. I encourage our 175 + sales consultants to take advantage of every social media medium they can to help reach their goals. Hopefully, this will be an even bigger eye opener for all.
    Thanks again and congrats on the purchase of your new Explorer!
    Tiki Tsakiris

    • says

      I’m glad you liked it, Tiki, and I’m even more glad that you’re sharing it. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer. I’m always happy to help.

    • Mike R. says

      Tiki – Thank you for the kind words!  After you share the piece, you’ll have to let Collin and I know what kind of feedback it garnered.  Being new to the business, I’m very eager to hear how the veterans respond.  If I can add any additional value to your presentation please don’t hesitate to let me know! 


      Mike Robards

      • Tiki says

        Mike and Collin,
        Interestingly, however not surprising, the “veterans” or “seasoned” car guys have yet to see the value in being able to market themselves in these new mediums. Not suprisingly, its our younger staff who are embracing the social media piece of their auto sales careers and are making enormous strides. We have at least 20 reps who are consistently adding 3-5 units a month to their sales numbers (and growing) just through their facebook and twitter pages.

        Do not do as I did, I became discouraged that EVERYONE did not embrace this “new” medium immediately. Like anything new, it takes time to adapt. The ones who adapt will succeed, the ones who do not adapt, will unfortunately get left behind.

        Again, congrats to Collin on the purchase of his new car. Kudos to Mike for adapting to the changes in the way we do business.

        Check out this video when you can… its an eye opener for those who still cant see it.

  5. says

    As a car salesman who puts his customer’s quality of experience on the top of his list of priorities, I’d be remiss to not ask you, Raul, if you are still in the market for a vehicle?  Perhaps I can make you feel comfortable with a transaction that suits you and by engaging with you on this comment thread, maybe show a willingness to doing business on your terms?  You can reach me at

  6. says

    The amazing thing is how many new car salesman are so resistant to doing things differently than they way they’ve always been done.

    • says

      Take it from me, having sold cars for a number of years.  It’s not the salesmen that is reluctant.  In most cases, it’s the sales-managers and general managers who don’t want change.

      • Anonymous says

        I agree with that bc i deal with it everyday.  However, I also find that internet directors are a block to using social media properly, at least for my business.  For some reason, internet directors think social media companies and smm’s are going to steal their job.  Which is not the case, it’s actually a huge added benefit.

  7. says

    Thank you for that article.  Very uplifting to see a real example of not the sale but your thought process.  I think the same way.  I would drive 200 miles to the dealership that earned my business by listening to me vs. walking into the one next door, bc of convenience.  Dealerships need to realize that this is a consumer driven market.. and there is not one program or process that works for every dealership…its the implementation, engagement and taking time to look at the big picture .  That’s what they don’t see.  it’s unfortunate.

  8. says

    I think this was a really cool experiment. I disagree with the post above about doing an @reply to the madison area dealers. Why make it easy for them? The whole point of the exercise is to see who is really LISTENING. Most people tweet more conversationally and some dont even use hashtags. He could have just said Ford without the tag. And, the salesman Mike even said he does searches for explorer so he didnt even find it with the hashtag.
    Yes, you could see it as childish but I think the point was to show how car dealers (and other sales businesses) need to change the way they find their customers. Sales people that are more innovative in the way they use social media will move ahead with the times and get more business.

  9. Gettingwarmer says


    I actually think you approached this in kind of a childish and passive aggressive way. If you wanted a reply from Madison-area dealers, why didn’t you @ them in your initial tweet? It’s like you wanted to make it as hard as possible for them to find your tweet so you could complain about it when they didn’t. 

    I think you have good points about the specific replies to your tweets, but I’m frankly amazed that ANY dealer found you merely by your use of #ford. 

    • says

      That is kind of the whole point of this post, Mike at Uptown motors was “listening”, not just broadcasting and he engaged actively and showed a real interest in finding out what Collin wanted as opposed to passively using twitter as yet another billboard much like the terrible ads dealers post on facebook.

      • says

        Amen Tony. That’s what makes it such a great story. No matter what people say, I’ll always be able to remember that Scott Monty thinks it’s a great example for all dealers.

      • says

        I agree with Gettinwarmer and with you and Tony as well.  I understand that the purpose of the exercise was to see if anyone was “listening” but at the same time, I wonder how many other prospects would actually take this approach or even begin a car-shopping process VIA twitter.  Namely because I work for a dealership in the Internet Department and manage the social media for my store and no one has ever @ tagged our dealer in a tweet requesting assistance.  However, I will begin to start “listening” to relevant hashtags in my geographical area because I’m sure there are prospects going unharvested by not actively listening.  I like the article though, don’t take away the wrong message.  Thanks for creating awareness of SM and the car business.

      • says

        Randall – Don’t limit your listening to hashtags. Most people who might be a prospect won’t be using them. Think about words real people would use on Twitter that might indicate they could be in the market for a new car.
        car accident
        new car
        need car
        buy car is your friend!

    • says

      I could have added so much more detail, but decided to keep it short and to the point. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter if you have more questions. I’m happy to help.

    • Mike R. says

      KarenAnn – Thank you for the compliment!  I’d love to chat about some of the things that you are doing at your dealership to engage prospects and clients onine and via social media. Maybe we can share some ideas…  I saw you followed on twitter and just followed back.  Let’s connect soon!  Respectfully – Mike R

  10. Mike R. says

    Collin – Again, a sincere thank you for your business and for sharing our unique experience!  It’s greatly appreciated, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with/getting to know you and I’m happy we were able to assist you in getting you exactly what you wanted, on your terms.  Further, I’m extremely grateful for your acknowledgement of the experience you had, and the service we provided, here at Uptown.  It certainly means a lot and is shared by the many employees that made it possible.  If there is anything more any of us can do for you, please don’t hesitate to let us know!  Respectfully – Mike R

    • says

      I wrote the post for YOU Mike. Sorry it took so long! I had 3 different versions written and couldn’t decide which one to post. I think I chose the right one.
      Thanks for contributing to a great story.

  11. says

    This was the best car buying experience I’ve EVER had, I suppose because it was all done on my terms. I guess that makes ME lucky too!

    • says

      There should be a button to tweet the article in the left sidebar, but it’s not visible on the mobile version. I’m trying to figure out why the mobile version is so crappy. Thanks for asking though. I’m glad you found the article interesting enough to share.

  12. Tom Buchheim says

    A nice case study, Collin, on how salespeople today need to meet people where they’re most comfortable. I think it’s especially true in the automobile industry, where the purchases are getting to be so involved – and require a greater financial sacrifice than almost anything else. Make people comfortable and do business with them where they want. And social media channels are a good place to start. Well done. 

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