Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NASCAR's Social Media Whirlwind

Boris Said made the media rounds of TV and radio shows on Tuesday. In his mind, that was the right way to address the issues surrounding the dust-up after the Watkins Glen race on Monday.

In fact, Said was scheduled to be a panelist on the "road course" edition of Monday's NASCAR Now show from the ESPN2 studios in Bristol, CT. It was only because the Sunday race was delayed by rain that Said was not talking to NASCAR fans as an ESPN analyst.

Instead, host Michelle Bonner handled Said on Tuesday's NASCAR Now while Sirius Speedway let Said talk about the situation for the SiriusXM subscribers.

Said repeatedly told the TV and radio hosts that he preferred to handle things the old way. That he was an old school guy who did his talking in person. He made it clear that things like Twitter and Faceboook were not for him. He ridiculed social media and the drivers who used it to express their opinions after the race.

Unfortunately, what Said is actually doing is missing the boat. In today's world, speaking about an incident one day later on TV or radio is considered light years down the road.

The same NASCAR fan base that embraced the Internet and online racing websites is migrating to social media in droves. Facebook and Twitter provide different types of interaction, but both have become two of the most powerful media tools for NASCAR drivers, teams and sponsors.

In interview after interview with Said, hosts used information received through social media outlets to ask questions and make references. As Twitter users have seen, this season the NASCAR TV networks have gone out of their way to integrate updated tweets into all kinds of programming.

The power of social media was offered a high-profile boost when Darrell Waltrip began carrying his iPad with him to the TV booth during races and scanning it for updated information and topics being discussed by fans. That is a pretty profound statement in terms of the power of instant communication.

Some NASCAR drivers have come and gone from Twitter after bad experiences. In most cases, they did not receive solid guidance from their team's media relations staff on the pitfalls of social media. Just like every other form of communication, there are good points and bad points about sharing information.

Jimmie Johnson is a recent convert to Twitter and has been a tremendous example of a powerful and high-profile NASCAR personality who has learned to use social media effectively. Johnson's personal tweets convey a sense of humor, a toughness and a level of understanding of the sport that has never been conveyed in the mainstream media.

At first, Johnson was formal and offered information and updates. Now, just a couple of weeks later, he is chatting with fans directly, giving media members grief and having a blast. Johnson's most recent exploits involved photos of a pint size cardboard cut-out of Chad Knaus placed in various colorful locations at the race track. "Mini-Chad" is a hoot.

When the race is over, the hottest place to be is Twitter. Drivers often grab cell phones and sign-on before they leave pit road. Happy or sad, hearing directly from the participants of a high-profile sports event directly instead of through the media is a whole new experience.

In many cases, fans have been able to watch the interaction between drivers as issues are brought up and then sorted out post-race. Most interesting perhaps is the fact that the tracks, the various series and NASCAR itself have become veterans at offering information to both fans and the media through Twitter.

If you have not given it a try, take a look before you reject it. Twitter is just a small free program that runs on a cell phone, tablet or any type of computer. The technology offers each user the opportunity to put together a list of personalities, news organizations and almost any type of interest that will update automatically.

By checking the Twitter timeline, users get updated information instantly. While the Twitter fan base for most NASCAR drivers is still modest, celebrities and mainstream media outlets like Time and CNN have millions following their updates.

It's fun to watch the information offered by NASCAR during races migrate from Twitter to the various live media chats and then onto the NASCAR racing blogs and websites. One thing is for sure, until something else comes along expect to be hearing a lot more about Twitter and NASCAR as the Chase closes in.

There is little doubt that this will be truly the first social media Chase in NASCAR history. This season may be about gas mileage on the track, but it clearly is about instant information outside of the driver's seat.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.


GinaV24 said...

Never planned to enjoy twitter as much as I do. I seldom post anything about my life, but I enjoy following my driver and his wife's tweets.

I follow some of the other NASCAR folks, too, including Marty Smith and Steve Byrnes.

I always keep the twitter feed open during the race -- a lot of times I get better info from that than from the TV coverage, although AB in the booth has helped ESPN's coverage so much.

I recorded RaceHub last night and haven't had a chance to watch it yet. As you said, Said is missing the boat with waiting to do TV interviews. Personally I'm glad he wasn't on NN as an analyst - I recall when he had the incident with Ambrose, I thought it was inappropriate for him to appear then and it would have been the same after this incident.

Said is no longer a road course ringer - he's a wrecking ball on the road courses. The regular NASCAR drivers have caught up.

Wisconsin Steve said...

Personally, when it comes to drivers arguing or feuding about something, I'd rather see them TELL us their side of the story than text or tweet about it - have some courage!

With other things like race updates and general comments, Twitter seems like a great source.

BTW, Lyndsay Czarniak was on ESPN2 this morning doing news updates during Mike & Mike; first time I've seen her on the air there since her deal was announced.

Kathy16 said...

couldn't disagree more. Frankly, most of these guys would be much better off having some time to think about what really happened, watch replays, and in Said/Biffle's case, to actually speak with each other (actual human contact!) rather than twittering insults at each other. Two people who handled it between themselves without the use of social media. Imagine that.

toomuchcountry said...

No question Twitter has helped me enjoy the race weekend - pre-race, during & post-race. And I see your point re: Boris' reluctance to embrace SM. But give him credit where due. He didn't wait until he showered & left the track to tweet his sound byte or post his anger/frustration as his FB status. He made his point right there on TV. It was one of the few times over the last year where Twitter was beaten to the punch. (pun clearly intended)

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping I can be a real racing and NFL fan yet not be interested in Twitter. I'm all about technology (count how many Netflix ready devices I have haha) but Twitter is just not for me. Yes I tried it and yes I rejected it. I'm not against those who like it and I won't ever try to convince them to stop using it. There may be "little doubt"(a favorite JD phrase) that this will be the first social media chase but I simply don't care. I don't feel the need to be involved at that level. I still think I am a big fan of both NASCAR and the NFL and nobody will convince me that I'm not truly experiencing it sans Twitter. Signed, a perfectly content non Twitterer.

Stick with the Biff said...

I'm with Steve...settle it mano a mano...not in the media behind some electronic device; there's been enough of that. Twitter has usefulness for some things, but this is not one of them. Plus--we've clearly seen a number of athletes who've now been haranged for things they've said on Twitter--and as for 'guidelines' from your PR people--who the heck has time to think about that when the whole purpose is to be spontaneous? Too much to think about...I'd avoid it like the plague if I knew I was the sort who seems to get myself in trouble (Tony Stewart has said as much...) I still wonder how many of these guys are really just having their PR people do it for them.

BTW--Boris is not a 'wrecking ball'. In fact, he spoke with Jack Roush & Jack confirmed that Ragan's spotter messed up. Most of the drivers have said they haven't had issues with him. The ones he has had, yes, have been very celebrated, thanks to the media (including the social kind)--but then, that's true of Kyle Busch, Kez, Carl & a bunch of others. Boris also said multiple times that he knows they no longer have an advantage as the field is now even. I'm a Biffle fan but it sounded like they've agreed to disagree, and they're done with it. But all in all--I still think this is all good for NASCAR, we need rivalries (and I never thought I'd agree with KuBu, but there ya go.)

Ir42nate2bhere said...

I love following on twitter, I have 179 motorsport related accounts I follow. But there still is nothing better to settle these situations the the old fashioned media, where neutral observers can ask the questions and get responses.I get better twitter enjoyment from my media related tweeters than the drivers actually. I also see where there are probably 56 million active tweeters in a nation of 311 million, so even if we think the active number is low, only about 25% of Americans actively follow twitter. So coming on TV and radio a day later isn't old news for a lot of people.

larry said...

I did notice that Biffle had his helmet off...I think the big guy with his helmet still on was Brave Boris.

I used to be a real fan of Boris Said. Lately, he seems to be content to punt the better cars/drivers. It's too bad he has such 3rd rate cars, perhaps he could use driving talent if he had first rate cars.

It's fun to watch the media trying to seem to be hands-off, but still promoting the feuds.

Anonymous said...

Is talking to ESPN and having your dumb comments played on every radio and TV station plus cable better that social media? Boris - it is the 21st century. You could have calmed down and tweeted your comments in a logical fashion instead of running your mouth only to have to back off to DaGodFather the next day - you know you're a lover now - not a hater - guess that part about going to his house and whooping was a joke - if so we didnt get it. When talking to broadcast media deflect. When asked about the incident you answer is to tell how you had a top ten car. Take lesson from the Shrub.

Anonymous said...

As a lot of people do not tweet and have an otherwise active lifestyle, dvr and watching it later seems to fill that bill. It does not matter that it is not up to the minute because our life has other stuff in it. Yes, I am an avid fan of Nascar and some drivers in particular and I love checking out the net and reading what people say, but I don't think I am missing a lot if I don't twitter or do whatever with my time when I can make better use of it. I would rather see them talking on tv or listen to the radio later when they have someone asking questions just to see how their opinions and feelings have changed sometimes later and after after they have had their initial emotional outbursts right after incidents just to see how their opinions and feelings have changed.


Sally said...

I know that lots of people love to
Twitter, but frankly, I have no interest. I spen plenty of time keepingup with things on my computer, and feel no need whatsoever to find another way to drain time away in front of some sort of screen. JD, I'm beginning to wonder if you're getting a cut of the action from twitter (just kidding ;-). Having the TV on and following with the Planeteers is all the distraction I can handle. More power to those who enjoy it, but count me out, thanks.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Hmmm, guess I'll have to get in on the Twitter movement ...after a year, I've just now figured out how to DVR what I want when I want ...sounds like an entertaining venue to be part of ...and with pretty much uncensored commentary direct from the horse's mouth

John in Chico said...

I do not Tweet but when my wife and I watch an event she's all over Twitter. From Kyle Bushes wife to a NASCAR offical up-dating situations from the tower. Gone to a commertial break? No problem. We find out instantly when a yellow flag comes out long before they come back from the break.
We even found out what the valve is on the vent hose on the new fuel cans. A fueler answered our question during the rain delay Sunday.
Instant information and access, from all sides. Little Chad has been a hoot.