Throughout my career in racing I have tried to pay careful attention to trends and ideas used by promoters and racers that seem to benefit those that are using them. 10 years ago we had a few magazines and newspapers to help spread the word of what was going on in racing. Other than that it was word of mouth, an occasional newspaper ad or a flier at the local auto parts store. While all of those were fairly good methods they didn’t reach much of the potential audience. How many times “back then” did you show up at your local weekly racetrack to find that there was a special event going on? Fast-forward a few years and the proliferation of the Internet - message boards out the wazoo and everybody has their own website. These new alternatives certainly provided you with the ability to reach more people and gave you a place to get your news out. But it was trendy. Some users did an excellent job with keeping their site fresh and kept up with posting the news across the various racing message boards. But others faltered and failed miserably. And those that had been visiting their websites and those boards searching for news quickly became frustrated and gave up looking.
In the last few years the social media world has exploded. Everyone has a Facebook page and more and more people are signing on to Twitter. Many promoters and racers have seen the benefits of these FREE ADVERTISING outlets and have started to use them with great success. I remember attending an RPM Workshop a few years back that focused on social media. I remember many of the old guard in the room seemed to dismiss these “new fangled” ideas as nonsense. But I can’t help but believe that some of them went right back home and started working on implementing these into their program.
When used properly, there is no doubt this type of media will be of benefit to you whether you are the race promoter, a sponsor, a team owner or a driver. Fans love it. We live in the age of information, immediate information for that matter. People have a hunger for it. They can never seem to get enough. I look at what drivers like Dan Schlieper and Bub McCool have done with their Twitter accounts. Each keeps their fans updated with where their driver will be at and what is going on in their program. And while websites are great for that, outlets such as Twitter and Facebook give it to people in almost real time. The news as it is happening so to speak. I think back to the USA Nationals and I remember Kim Smith (wife of World of Outlaws regular Clint Smith) talking about how she heard about Clint’s wild flipping accident seconds after it happened and seconds after that finding out that he was unhurt. That is priceless. If you are a fan of someone that is information you want and the sooner you get it the better.
I also look at guys like Chris Ferguson who utilizes the many social media outlets to his full advantage. Over the winter last year he meticulously chronicled the construction of his brand new Warrior Chassis. He used pictures and carefully placed sponsor logos to really highlight his sponsors and give them that extra little bit of exposure. That is important to people – especially to those who spend money on you. One of the first few questions I am asked when working with a potential sponsor is “Do they have a website or Facebook page?” It’s quick and easy for them to see and get information about you or your facility. It also tells a tale of how well you take care of the sponsors you already have. Remember that whole keep it fresh thing. That is critical to keep people coming back and smart sponsors know that already.
I have heard from some promoters that they think race updates posted to social media outlets will “hurt their attendance” because “people will stay home and just read about the race”. Come on, really? If race fans have the ability to be at the racetrack, they are going to be there. Nothing can beat being there to hear the roar of the engines, the smell of racing fuel or the site of guys going at it 2 and 3 wide. If people are choosing to stay home and READ about your event when they could have been there, well then, frankly you have some work to do on the product you are putting out. This SERVICE is for the fans that can’t be there. The ones that are working or are sick or just cannot get there for whatever reason. Those are the people who will appreciate it most and will reward you for looking out for them. I can’t help but remember a fan approaching me at an event a couple of years back. He said he appreciated us doing our updates because he was at home taking care of his sick wife. He told me how he and his wife were both race fans and it meant the world that he was able to tell her about what was going on at the races and how her favorite drivers were fairing.
There are so many good examples of folks using the social media world to their advantage. Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia frequently posts photos of their track prep that is going on leading up to an event. If I am a fan or a racer seeing that, I will automatically believe that the Brown’s at Wythe are working hard to give me a good track surface. They are showing they care. I am important to them and they want me to know that. And basically that is what the whole thing boils down to. Making sure people have information shows that you care about them and want them to know everything about your program. Something so small and simple can mean so much to race fans. And with all the many available forms of entertainment today, we racing folks need every advantage we can get.
So, I say use them all. Message boards, websites, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Linked-In, YouTube, newsletter programs like Constant Contact - everything and anything you can find to get your information out. Don’t be anti-social. Use what’s available – most of which is cheap or free. And one last word of advice: find someone to do it that will DO IT. Assign it to them and hold them accountable to get it done. Don’t let it fall by the wayside and get forgotten. Keep it up and keep it fresh and it will benefit you. Oh and be sure to follow me on Twitter @KELCARMS – Thanks for reading.