Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Why Twitter Makes Sense For Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tuesday mornings there is a weekly online live video chat at the NASCAR.com website. It is about the Nationwide Series and features all kinds of folks. This week the session hosted a Nationwide Series owner and occasional driver talking with moderator Joe Menzer. His name is Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Although far from reclusive, Earnhardt has a strange relationship with the online world. While active in personal pursuits like iRacing, his online video exposure last year consisted mostly of Amp Energy chats through his sponsor's website.
This season, it has been abundantly clear that the hot ticket for NASCAR drivers, teams and sponsors is social media. Specifically, Facebook and Twitter. Facebook creates a controlled web presence and provides an online platform that serves millions of users worldwide.
NASCAR's Facebook page has 1.4 million fans. Earnhardt's own Facebook page managed by his JR Motorsports folks has almost 900 thousand. This page is only a presence for official updates. Earnhardt himself does not participate. Imagine what kind of response Earnhardt would get if he took a moment to say hello.
Perhaps the most powerful and effective communication tool in 2011 is Twitter. It gives users the ability to offer up to 140 letters or numbers in each message that is called a tweet. Pictures, videos, Internet links or just plain text can be passed along. The format is simple.
Twitter is designed to be the ultimate portable communication tool. In the blink of an eye, one check of a cell phone can immediately offer customized and instant information to users. Laptops, iPads and almost every portable online device can use Twitter without a glitch.
My Twitter moment came when, as a new user, I griped about something Kyle Petty said during a live TNT telecast. I was shocked when seconds later he responded to my tweet live on TNT. Not only did Petty respond to my issue, but during the next commercial break he tweeted me back and wanted to know if I heard his answer!
Petty has used Twitter for years. He now regularly interacts with fans during his shows on SPEED and will do so again this summer on TNT. Petty embraced the fact that direct interaction with NASCAR fans is a positive thing and moves the sport forward.
It has been interesting to watch the NASCAR personalities creep onto Twitter and then embrace it. The most recent has been Jimmie Johnson, who has been having a blast. He hosts giveaways for fans, interacts with them and seems to be having a lot of fun. Twitter is showing his personality to fans like television never could.
Twitter veterans like Kevin and DeLana Harvick work this technology very effectively. Whether answering fan questions on the morning of a race or offering pictures of new KHI sponsors, Twitter has proven to be a tremendously effective marketing platform for this NASCAR power couple.
Many other NASCAR television personalities use Twitter extensively. Even Darrell Waltrip, who was dragged on by his SPEED co-workers, has fallen in love with the simplicity and efficiency. Now, Waltrip keeps an iPad with Twitter running alongside of him in the TV booth so he can interact with fans and stay current on information and news.
Before the NASCAR.com chat session, I asked my Twitter followers to put the question of why he won't join Twitter to Earnhardt. Sure enough, it got asked and he answered. It followed along the lines of others who have never given it a try. Too time consuming, too invasive and a burden. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What Earnhardt would find on Twitter is what he may have been searching for all along. NASCAR fans are informed, funny and opinionated. Junior's fans on Twitter would do nothing more than offer him the opportunity to be himself.
There are no obligations that come with Twitter. No issues with time-consuming work. You just come and go as you please, leaving what content you want to share with others. In a fast-paced NASCAR world, some top drivers like Brad Kezelowski, Denny Hamlin and even Kyle Busch have sometimes used Twitter just to have some fun with the fans. I think that all three would say it has been a rewarding experience.
In this season of personal and professional transition, direct contact with a supportive fan base might be just what the doctor ordered for Earnhardt. It's a personal yet non-invasive way to tap into the very heart of those people supporting his efforts on the track and in the sport.
It's pretty safe to say that Earnhardt has millions of fans across the country and around the world who may never actually get to a race in person. Giving those fans a little controlled glimpse behind the scenes and into the real life of their hero can only yield positive results.
A personal Twitter account makes sense for the most popular driver in the sport. It makes sense for a businessman with a variety of interests to promote. It makes sense for someone who genuinely cares about others and enjoys making new friends.
Right now seems to be a very opportune moment to get Junior to stick his toe in the water and see why hundreds of NASCAR personalities and millions of NASCAR fans interact on Twitter every single day.
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