Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NASCAR Leading Social Media Revolution


Repost of 2-21-12 column on social media by request.

When we started this NASCAR TV and media blog in 2007 the preferred way for fans to contact NASCAR was by mail. In order to offer some feedback, fans had to locate the PO Box address in Daytona Beach that was hidden deep inside the NASCAR.com website.

Just five years ago NASCAR had no public email address, no Internet access and the only listed phone number was for tickets to International Speedway Corporation events. The NASCAR.com website was operated by Turner Sports and customer service was limited to online pay services.

While NASCAR has fine-tuned the COT, rolled out fuel injection and limited drivers to one series championship, the real revolution has been in opening a direct line of communication with the fan base. The sport is a true leader in the social media revolution now underway.

At the core of the current shift in providing content directly to fans is the social media service called Twitter. Its beauty is in its limitations. 140 characters of content have become the language of NASCAR. Instant links to pictures, online locations and topics within the sport flow from morning to night.

Through Twitter, the top drivers in NASCAR communicate directly with the fans. The TV personalities, reporters and media members offer instant information and answer questions. The teams, sponsors and tracks update content daily that is directly related to happenings within the sport.

The real beauty of NASCAR's relationship with social media is that no money changes hands. NASCAR carved a wide path by demanding payment for anything and everything associated with the sport for decades. Now, a little texting service originally designed for cell phones sends information about the sport worldwide for free.

It's not just the drivers and teams that use Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch with fans. NASCAR's TV partners came along grudgingly, but have now embraced social media as a way to accomplish a level of viewer interaction never before imagined.

The light went on for me several years ago during a Sprint Cup Series race on TNT. I complained on Twitter that the network telecast had not updated a driver formerly in contention who had pulled into the pits. Seconds later, Kyle Petty responded to my tweet over the air. In the next commercial break, he tweeted to ask me if that was the information I was looking for. I was sold.

65 year-old Darrell Waltrip now carries an iPad into the TV booth for his NASCAR on FOX races. Waltrip came to Twitter two seasons ago and got the hang of interacting with fans directly in a flash. That might run in the family, as brother Michael was one of the first NASCAR personalities on Twitter and paved the way for other drivers and owners to follow.

Save the talk about useless information, just a passing fad and not worth the time. The current impact of Twitter on NASCAR is bigger than anything the sport has ever experienced. As a totally portable communication platform, many drivers practicing at Daytona actually took their phones and Twitter along with them in the cars.

Last week, fans from home or work were chatting with Sprint Cup Series drivers sitting in line at the Daytona International Speedway waiting to go on the track. It was a fascinating exercise in the fundamental power of social media.

While posts on Facebook give fans an opportunity to browse for content, Twitter allows every single user to customize a list of who they would like to follow. Users do not have to tweet and can simply follow along and watch the information flow. There are various applications on the market that can put Twitter into whatever form is easiest for the specific user.

As NASCAR heads for Daytona, SPEED has already made a total commitment to integrating the fans, through social media, into that network's telecasts. FOX has followed along and expects to continue to develop a synergy with SPEED where interactive technology is concerned.

Our friends at ESPN operate under a corporate set of social media guidelines. This is simply due to the fact that the company puts out so much content of all types on a daily basis. Luckily, that does not interfere with the reporters and analysts talking about the happenings in NASCAR.

This year the door is open for fans to interact with even more NASCAR executives. Twitter also allows users to get official race information from the sanctioning body as it happens. Last year, after a pit road speed issue, NASCAR VP Steve O'Donnell tweeted a pic of the actual speeds as posted on the NASCAR computer. Case closed.

If some fans would rather just watch the races in peace without online interaction, that still works just fine. My only tip is that new TV's on the market are already coming with Twitter built into the screen. Like it or not, social media is here to stay and NASCAR's decision to embrace it is about to pay off in a very big way.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

38 comments:

ddsbstrb said...

Very interesting article about Twitter. I do not Twitter; however, I do read a lot of Twitter, but not usually during the race. I guess I need to try that. I am usually pretty busy watching on Race View and on TV (with the volume turned-down during Fox, for obvious reasons already discussed many times in your column!)

You did mention that many of the drivers use Twitter as a means of communication with their fans, which is great. I think most do this in a fairly subtle and natural manner.

I tried to suffer through the Bud Shoot-Out Drawing, last week, and did notice only one driver who you also mentioned as the pioneer of NASCAR-Twitter, Michael Waltrip, who seemed to have the manner of a "high-schooler" with his smart-phone. I found his constant use of his smart-phone rather distracting and kind of rude, to others involved in the show. None of the other 24 drivers were messing with their "c-phones/smart phones" the entire time they were on the stage, during the drawing.

Maybe that is just the "self-centeredness" that Michael displays, all of the time. What is so special about a Bud Shoot-Out Drawing, that he needs to relay all of this information to his fans? Would we need to endure more of the silliness of both he and KW, on Twitter, also? I, for one, had quite enough of both of them, just trying to endure them on live-TV!

Maybe I am missing the point of Twitter?

Still a great article, John!

Buschseries61 said...

I'm getting kinda tired of hearing about Twitter. Some tv shows now have a bar on the top or bottom of the screen that constantly crawl with viewer comments and online messages I don't really care about. I really hope NASCAR doesn't follow. Just keep it as an online thing.

The Mad Man said...

NASCAR still has a long ways to go in the social media arena. Other organizations and companies, like the WWE, embraced social media long before NASCAR did and so once again NASCAR is trying to play catch up in the realm of electronic media and the internet.

RACINGGIRL88 said...

JD: you are absolutely right about the power of social media. I follow you on twitter and can honesty say your vast knowledge of NASCAR and television reflect in your tweets. You answer questions for fans like myself that were never possible to ask or get answered five years ago. Your use of social media on twitter is excellent. The fans need to embrace social media more as they don't know what they are missing. Thanks JD! Have a great season!

MRM4 said...

I was very reluctant to get on Twitter even when I finally got a smartphone. But with all the talk of it and finding out who was using it regularly, I decided to give it a go. Over 1,300 posts later in 9 months, I guess it's safe to say I have embraced it. I think it's a good way to keep up with things. Since following a number of NASCAR media people, I rarely get on Jayski's site any more (sorry Jay).

Nascar Bits & Pieces said...

Twitter is a refining, two edged sword, but by and by, a wonderful new venue for fans to feel like part of the process. It adds another depth or dimension to the sport that is open to the fans.

But you still have to be careful what you tweet, no matter how innocent it might feel at the moment, right Kasey?

Plus, Twitter is a great editorial tool that helps illiterates like myself become concise in the messages we try to send. LOL.

But all in all, it is an awesome thing to see NASCAR come along and join the fray. Though I have to wonder, if the economy stayed solid, would they still have opened up channels or did they do this because the economy forced them to look at this avenue as a way to retain or gain fans. I'd like to think they would have done this any way, but the timing has always piqued my curiosity.

Eh, I hate this Devil's Advocate stuff.

Plus, I concur with RACINGGIRL88 John, it's cool you take the time to engage us out here on Twitterville.

-Bruce

Anonymous said...

I follow many of my favorite drivers and media personalities. Quite fun and interesting....many drivers are quite natural at it.

However, for watching the races/qualifying/etc....I still prefer just to TIVO that content when I can't watch it live (which is often as I work weekends)....and then stay away from Twitter until I've seen the race. While the TV personalities of all the broadcasters all have their faults, it's not all that bad when using a TIVO....you can just FF them. :-)

Anonymous said...

I am very impressed with the path NASCAR has taken with social media lately. They are still behind with some aspects, but they are on a roll in my opinion...with a lot of things.

KoHoSo said...

Whether or not people here use Twitter or any other social media, the most important thing about NASCAR getting better about taking advantage of it is the attraction of a younger audience. Like it or not, sponsors want a younger demographic because we older folks aren't as easy to sway with advertising. For the health of the sport, this really is a good thing...well, as long as NASCAR doesn't put too much of a muzzle on things and make all content sound like a post-race sponsor-laundry-list interview.

GinaV24 said...

I do like that the drivers interact on twitter. I have an assorted group of writers, drivers, etc. that I follow during the race and yes, it is interesting to get instant feedback. I've gotten "yelled at" by some people too in their responses if they didn't like my comment. BTW - I am NOT rude in my responses, but I am honest.

I am not interested in the Waltrips and so don't follow either of the noisy ones.

I know you said you are going to use Twitter for the live race blogs. I'll give it a try, but I'm not sure it will be as much fun as the old blog. You're running the show, so as I said, I'll give it a try.

robbydjr said...

I'm sorry but the folks on TV are going to run this Twitter thing straight in the ground. They are obsessed with it to the point of over saturation. And I'm disappointed that John has chosen to use Twitter for his live chats during a race instead of here. Maybe because I don't get it. How do you see every thing that's said in order like you do here? All I see is tweets from John and a few other people in high places.

Daly Planet Editor said...

robby,

You are just viewing my account alone. What you need to do is click on the list of who I follow.

That will allow you to scroll through NASCAR, media and sports accounts.

When you want to see the tweets from any of those folks, just click "follow" on the button to the right. You will then see what they send as well.

Twitter is a customized-list that is created by each user. It allows everyone to pick and choose the folks according to a person's own preferences.

Bear in mind whether it is Jimmie Johnson or Wendy Venturini, simply by following them you can send them a tweet directly anytime.

This ability to see and also communicate directly with anyone you choose is amazing.

Try it for a while, it's a tremendous resource for fans.

JD

robbydjr said...

You have no argument from me about Twitter being a tremendous resource. What I'm skeptical about is using it as a "live chat" like you have here during races. Does that mean that "anonymous" users can't post? Does that mean I have to follow everybody who's posting during a race so I can see what they're saying. Seems like I'll be spending all my time following people as they join the chat, unless I'm still not getting it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Robby,

1 - Twitter does not require users to offer a real name, only to establish an account with a contact email.

2 - At the conclusion of NNS and Cup races, there will be an immediate post available for comments on the telecast. There will just not be a running live blog. Unfortunately, the number of folks coming to the live blog is soo small it no longer makes sense to maintain it.

JD

robbydjr said...

Thanks, John. Didn't mean to turn this into a "How To" thread. Carry on...

glenc1 said...

I've given my opinion on Twitter many times (which can be summed up by, useful tool in the hands of the *right* users, a complete waste of time when it isn't.) I think it's important for NASCAR to embrace social media when it can, and they have spent way too long trying to hide from people--they need the transparency & exposure that comes with social media. But right now it's like Robby said...it is a bit like television just discovered fire. It's being beat to death in yes, very useless ways. I hardly watch some channels anymore, and flip away the minute they start telling me what people are Twittering about in some city. Eventually I believe it will settle down and become a more useful tool in the media's hands. And can I add myself to the list of people who find those playing with their phones instead of interacting with each other very rude? There's a time & place, man.

Roland said...

I dont like seeing twitter on my TV screen during telecasts.

KoHoSo said...

glenc1...I'm the same as you in that I immediately tune out when channels like ESPN and CNN start "taking the pulse of the nation" by reading off "tweets" from Twitter. I personally could care less in the midst of a TV presentation knowing what @JoonuhrRuulzz88forevah thinks about the major issue of the day...just the same as nobody cares what @KoHoSo tweets as well. ;-)

On the other hand, I again point this back to the younger generation. From what I see, what people tweet about (plus all the rest) is important to them and forms their real-life discussions (even if they are overly-slanted toward doing it through a glorified Star Trek communicator). It's kind of their own version of the older generation that used to ask each other around the water cooler, "Did you hear what Johnny Carson said last night?"

Anonymous said...

It would be a lot easier for y'all to "chat" using a hashtag such as #TDB (The Daly Planet) or something during the races. It's probably a good guess to assume most ppl follw JD on twitter that post on here. once JD post the hash tag (TDP) and it shows up on your feed you can click that and it will pull up all the post in real-time with ppl who use that hashtag.

That way you wouldnt have to follow 100 different random fans and u could simply reply to a person 1 or 2 times if you wanted and they be involved in the "convo."

Also, you have to make sure your tweets are "unprotected" for this to work. Otherwise other ppl wont see YOUR tweets even if you mention them in tweets. they MIGHT if you hit "reply," but I KNOW they dont on mentions alone. I think twitter's defualt is set to unprotected. IDK if this works for DMs as well or not.

@lpmv2407

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon, we will use the #TDP hashtag for the live races. We tried a soft rollout of a live Twitter chat during the Shootout and it went really well.

One of the biggest benefits of allowing TDP readers to chat on Twitter for the live races is that we are followed by the TV folks, the media reporters and the NASCAR officials.

This allows them to give us feedback immediately and react to your questions and comments. I think this is going to be fantastic.

JD

glenc1 said...

I agree with you, KoSoHo...for too many years NASCAR has sort of ignored new technology (heck, they've finally gone to fuel injection...) and I think it's essential that they bring back the young. But to use Kyle Petty's signature phrase, let's be honest--I do think those who Twitter can be a bit self centered, thinking everything they say is important to everyone, but at least NASCAR is making an attempt to be involved. I also think a lot of it is people being 'starstruck' at famous people responding to them. That's normal, mind you, you feel flattered. But to the thousands of other viewers, we're just annoyed that it's on our screen. I also think using jargon & abbreviations excessively is not good for the English language, but that's a whole different story ppl, lol...
:)

robbydjr said...

This allows them to give us feedback immediately and react to your questions and comments. I think this is going to be fantastic.

John, I hope that's not wishful thinking. It would be fantastic if they did, because they'd get a much better "pulse" reading the comments from your followers.

But as I've seen up to now, they pick and choose only smiley face comments or questions from Twitter, for lack of better terms. And we all know, when it comes to commenting on the broadcasts, there's a lot of contructive criticism. Which they should appreciate and address.

James said...

I fussed it and cussed it and i've eatin crow.

I said social media was teenager driven. Tweet? What's a tweet..and why do i care who does what and when. And FB? Why do I even care what my longtime high school buddy is doing

Then in 2009 the light went off and I discovered it. Now I religiously follow Nascar daily.

It's not lame..it's not a waste of time. It's legit and fun.

I follow TDP, Jenna Fryer and Lee Spencer and Bob Pockrass and Tom Jensen the drivers PR guy's/girls

Drivers who use it always provide cool insight at the shop and at the track. Fyi...follow Kevin and Delana even you arent a fan...it's worth it.

Take it from a 44 yr old Carolina Farm boy...it's cool.

Debby said...

I, for one, will enjoy using Twitter during the race. That way I don't have to go back & forth to the blog and Twitter. Lets just all remember to be polite (just as JD asks when we post) and to embrace it. If you don't enjoy posting on Twitter, don't. Just follow the comments. There are lots of good people to follow and you can learn a lot. Change is good; cannot wait. Thanks for all you do to enlighten us JD.

Charlie Spencer said...

Put me in the "I don't get it" category, and I'm an IT professional. I've created accounts on four different occasions over the last three or four years. I just can't figure out how to use it.

I'm pathologically afraid of shortened URLs. If I can't read where it goes, I'm not taking the chance.

I can't figure out how 'conversations' flow. I reminds me of listening to one side of a telephone conversation; I can't figure out how to hear the other side.

I don't like the 'wheat to chaff' ratio. Twitter's policy is one account per user, but I wish they'd permit people to have one for professional purposes and a different one for their personal lives. I care what Wendy V. may have to say about a pit incident; I don't care how long she was stuck in the airport.

I HATE the 140-character limit. On the rare occasions I had something to post, it took me longer to edit myself than it took to do what I was posting about in the first place. I also don't get many of the abbreviations the limit forces people to use.

Do people actually post photos and videos directly on Twitter; or do they post them to an account or page on another site, and then link to them from Twitter? There's a difference.

I think it depends a lot on how important it is to you to know --NOW--. Let's face it, it's only racing. If Jr. replaces an engine Saturday after Happy Hour, it doesn't matter to me that I don't find out until I read Jayski Sunday morning.

That said, I'm glad NASCAR is able to attract fans using this tool, along with any other they can leverage effectively. But I couldn't have expressed the above opinions using it.

Sophia said...

Glenc1 & Kohoso etc

I've used twitter since 2008 but agree it's being used too much all over tv including NASCAR. Same w/ Fbook & comments. This somehow has diluted the enjoyment for many early adopters.

(but I'm tired also of tv telling me 'for more info see our website')....

I use twitter for some nascar but following too many reporters results in 40 tweets in your feed saying exact same thing. So choose wisely.

Max Papis & his wife are fun tho tati doesn't post as often, least in off season. Delana H posts adorable pics of her dogs.

+ many celebs/race drivers have "ghost tweeters" & do not disclose that. Other times it's obvious if they tweet during races.

The reporters & tv guys are fabulous. Some seek you out in DM (Private Direct Message on Twitter) or if you have a site, email.

I LOVE getting emails from guys I've seen on tv asking me for recipes or about other things I've mentioned, lol. Or somebody i've seen locally on tv for 10 yrs sending me a message that a colleague of theirs drives them crazy!

Max Papis & his wife, and Graham Rahal are good at responding to me the few times I've commented to them. I used to follow more Indycars but they tweeted to much in other languages, or were boring. Some "tweet & run" and never respond (which is why I don't follow many celebs or athletes)

Plus, it's rewarding that the guys I've enjoyed on tv are just as kind and classy in private DMs/email as they are on tv or the much public social medias.
I liked Twitter best "3 upgrades ago" when the DM count would change w/o having to guess or keep your twitter email open constantly.

It was interesting following Vickers when he was off sick for a season & he shared lots of photos about what he was doing & was a good responder to all, too.

My late mom saw my tweet # a year ago and said "20,000? You talk a lot" I said but mom, that's only in 140 characters at a time!

Some drivers' blow off steam & apologize for sounding angry in their stream later...I respect those drivers...max papis comes to mind at doing that.

But some of the reporters & SPEED guys have just been the best!!

Well, except for a few mentioned elsewhere. If you act like your 8 yrs old, I don't follow. they tweet non-sense.

For m 80% of twitter is local people. My family & in real life friends think SM is nuts but are amazed at the folks I've been able to meet or have at my house when they are in the area. Great quality folks with good sense of humors & shared interest...food, pets, sports, photography :) or artist who've had art showings or been in local theatre. I love twitter. It's opened up a whole new world & my house mate enjoys meeting new people too (He's an introvert & doesn't do Tw or FB)

Initially the tweets are confusing as they read backwards (original conversation starter far in your stream if you follow over 200 folks)

Some follow 1000s but I have no idea how they can read that much!! 250 is the limit for average folks to follow.

Try it you might like it!

It's all in who you follow.

Sophia said...

Charlie

i don't use a smart phone so tweet on laptop. I post pictures using Twitpic.

You can have as many accounts as you can manage. I know many who have personal ones & one for work/professiona or for their blogs if they are foodies, cooks, etc.

I think more than 2 are confusing for most. I sometimes post for a band's schedule I keep so use an alternative browser (Opera) so I'm logged in as Sophiz123 on twitter in Chrome & Firefox.

I've also posted short videos but think you can do that on twitpic now also. Or send a Bubbletweet using Eyejot.

We animal lovers are always sharing pet picks or gardeners pics of flowers, or cooks sharing a food dish photo (I know but hey I've gotten great tips from a Newspaper Food critic on how to make biscuits from scratch)

You just never know when a conversation will connect to a followers.

oh, and you can send 2 or 3 tweets in a row, or in a DM if somebody follows you back.

Some use the tweetlonger deal but most of us find that annoying as it makes you finish reading in a new window. We 140 purist types have unfollowed folks that use that constantly. I understand the need sometimes.

Also somebody said they don't like where shortened links are going to take them.

A valid concern as bitly & others or accounts can be hacked & turn a nice link into something not so nice.

Also check your followers constantly. Lots of dirty junk happening since the newest Twitter upgrade (not everybody has that apparently)

Ban/block/report spammers.

Sally said...

Like someothers here, I guess I'm happy reading the 'latest news' without having to involve yet another electronic service. I just don't 'get' the appeal. Glad that so many seem to find it so impressive, but it's just not my 'thing'. Faster is better doesn't get it for me.

Thanks, JD, for all the good times and entertining insight over the past few years. I'll just have to join you on the blog site. It's been a blast. Thanks everyone.

NASCAR Bits & Pieces (Bruce) said...

Here's another perspective on following certain folks: Twitter allows users to create lists. My feed has core-press, cool-press, drivers or what not. We could always get users to start a TDP list...

just a thought.

Charlie Spencer said...

Sophia, thanks, but I'm not interested in getting followers. My experience with blogging shows I have little to say that's unique or original. I'm looking at Twitter more as an information source, not as a networking or socializing tool. I realized I don't enjoy doing those things off-line, and that's part of why I don't enjoy forcing myself to try to do them online.

I don't have any form of portable connectivity device. I don't feel any motivation to be connected when I'm away from work or home, and I suspect I'd just lose it anyway. I apparently don't value immediate information as much as others do (or as much as the cellular providers think I should).

There's got to be a good guide to using Twitter as an information resource for the passive lurker. Everything I find is oriented around using it to amass followers, usually for business purposes. I acknowledge that you get out what you put into it, but experience shows I have nothing to 'put'. James says a light came on for him; I can't find the switch.

Anonymous said...

After about 4 years of facebook and about 1½ years of twitter we decided as a new years resolution to chuck both of them and get back to a more sensible way of life. They both seemed to be getting far too silly and taking up time that could be better spent.The time we spend face to face with our friends is far more valuable than playing with the Blackberry and chatting with folks we will probable never meet and perhaps not care to anyway. Maybe when we get older we will find more time for this sort of thing.

Charlie Spencer said...

Okay, I'm gonna backpedal a bit here.

I was aware Twitter had changed its GUI, but today is the first time I've looked at it since the change.
I find it much easier to follow conversations now.

Maybe I'll notice some other changes that will affect my opinion of the service; maybe not. But that alone does make it worth at least another (fifth) look.

FloridaMatt said...

ok, so I'm on twitter.com, logged in.

Now, how do I follow #tdp

Daly Planet Editor said...

Matt, search for me by name or thedalyplanet and then click on the folks who I follow. That will display a list of folks you can use as a base to start.

Every user has a list, the search box will provide any names or lists you need.

Your home is your timeline, connect is tweets sent to just you. Have fun.

FloridaMatt said...

But at the moment I don't want to follow anyONE. I just want to follow the blog postings.

PammH said...

to Sally-I will miss u on racedays for sure! But will welcome your comments after the race. We share very similar opines & u are a MI gal too!

Charlie Spencer said...

FloridaMatt, if you're still checking this, it looks like you're as confused as I am. John suggested to me also that I look at who he follows. While that's logical, I find the notion of wading through his list of 1900+ to be daunting to the point of paralysis. That's a lot of people to filter to find those who are active here at TDP.

Trinity929 said...

I have had my twitter account for several years, and I will admit that over the past couple of years, a highlight to my twitter experience is the Nascar component. I am not giong to sit here and say I love having tweets floating across the tv screen, or whether a social media garage is necessary...but it makes me feel a part of everything. There are pros and cons, ddue to commercials and digital cable having a lag time, I will see "WRECK" "CRASH" "WRECK" a good half a minute before I actually see it on my screen. While the severity is not clear until I actually see it on my telecast, the suspense ends as soon as I see "Caution" from one of the nascar media types, or fans that I follow.

Twitter is certainly here to stay and for those who done use it, I can certainly understand the lack of understanding the appeal of it. But its not going anywhere. As far as tweeting while commentating or tweeting during an interview, etc. I think that is a bit much. But its the same as most people who cant seem to stop looking at their phone long enough to have an actual conversation.