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Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Jon Wood, who is the man behind the @woodbrothers21 Twitter account.
Let’s first talk about how you first came to be the one who was in charge of the team account.
The way our race team works — it’s a family business. So we all kind of chip in, whether it’s my dad (Eddie) or me or my sister (Jordan), whoever. We aren’t specifically tasked with any individual responsibilities; we just all kind of do whatever needs to be done.
A couple of years ago, maybe five years ago now, my sister was doing the social media because she (is) the director of marketing, so to speak. She was handling the social media and she had to go to a wedding or something, I can’t remember what it was — it was some obligation. So she had me do the social media that weekend at Talladega. I had never done it; I didn’t even have a Twitter account at the time.
So I’m like, “You gotta show me what to do, give me all the passwords and all this stuff.” And it was just a really good fit because I have a racing background myself, so I understood without having to ask a crew chief or another crew member, “Hey, what does it mean ‘a round of wedge?'” I already knew that stuff. So the technical aspect of it, I could explain things easier than probably some other marketing person can.
But then I didn’t really have any experience in social media at all, and so that was kind of a learning curve. I just tried to be myself; I just tried to be natural. Nobody wants an information-only source — I’m mean, you’ve got plenty of (non-information-only sources), and you’re one of those, where if I need to know something, I click on Jeff Gluck’s account or Bob Pockrass. You want to have your own individual identity, and so that’s what I try to do.
What it kind of reminds me of is I see some of these pro sports teams now who know the people following are fans, so they want to show they’re invested in it just like the fans are. If it’s a bad day, they’re not gonna sugarcoat it, they’re gonna say, “This sucks.” That’s kind of what I get from your account in some ways, where if something went wrong, you’re like, “We’re screwed. This strategy just didn’t work.” Do you know what I mean?
It’s a delicate balance. My wife (Amanda) stays on me all the time, she says I’m too negative. Whenever the day is going bad, she accuses me of just giving up. Like, “I’m done. See ya.” I don’t literally leave the racetrack, but I mean, I have a vested interest equity in this team, so it’s not like your typical marketing person where when they get home at night, the last thing that’s on their mind is the race team or where they finished. They might not even know where the car finished.
And for us it’s a little different. For me, whenever we have a bad day, I’m literally upset and so she stays after me all the time to be more upbeat. I think people appreciate that (candor). It’s not the same old, “We’re gonna get going,” when we’re two laps down. That stuff gets old, and when you’re performing at the level that Ryan (Blaney) is now and our team, you’re gonna have good days. You’re gonna have bad days, too, but the bar’s been raised so whenever we are having a bad day, I can just say, “This is bad. Sorry. We’re done.”
Let’s say a PR person was just doing that for their team, they might get blowback from sponsors or the executives saying, “You can’t say that about our team!” So do you ever get any criticism from your family like, “Dude, back it down a little bit?”
My dad. For anybody who doesn’t know my family or know how my dad and his brother (Len) are, they’re very conservative people, and you don’t cuss in public, you don’t make a fool of yourself. And so if anything, I go too far for what their taste would be.
And early on, I think my dad was going behind and reading a lot of what I would post on social media. He’s kind of lessened or unleashed the reins. At first, he was very cautious, but it’s been a popular approach as what you’ve been saying. So I think as long as I don’t cuss or say something that’s completely controversial — “Vote Trump” or whatever — he’s not gonna care.
What kind of reaction have you gotten from fans of the team in regards to your approach of how you handle the account?
Ninety-nine out of 100 people like it. You’re always gonna get your trolls and the ones that just want to give you a hard time. If you go through their accounts and look, they’re that way with everybody; it’s not just one single thing that I’ve done.
I try to be honest about it, but it’s a different approach to where I want people to think that it’s funny, too. The fastest way to make someone like you is to either be the best, which we’re trying to do that, but there’s only one Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano. If you’re not that, the next best way is to be funny. That’s my belief, and that’s the fastest way that I’ll start following someone and have interest in them. It’s not necessarily just with social media, it’s everyday life. I mean, people like upbeat people.
But you can be upbeat and funny when you’re having a bad day as well. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it is what it is. I didn’t go to school to do any of this, it’s all trial and error, and I guess what I’ve probably done is I’ve sampled a little bit of every different style and I’ll just go back and look at the reaction, the metrics, the Twitter analytics — that’s a pretty neat tool — and see what people think. I mean, our following has exploded lately.
I think what makes it interesting is that it’s so authentic and genuine. You know that you’re not getting some BS; you know that this is real. And I think in NASCAR specifically, fans can see through BS pretty easily. So if you’re being real and authentic and being your real self, even if it’s you speaking on behalf of the team on that account, I think it sort of endears it to people in some ways.
We’re at a disadvantage in many ways. We’re a single-car team, and when I compare our account to the Roush Fenway account, we’ve got half the number of followers, give or take, and then I have to remind myself that would be the equivalent of looking at one of their cars, because we’re just one.
I think what we do is respectable, but again, I have no training in this. During the week I have no Photoshop skills. I look at some of these accounts and they’re able to whip up all these cool graphics. I can’t do any of that, so I’ve got to make it up somehow and make it interesting. During the week they’ve got dedicated people to do this stuff. I’m doing other things; I’m doing merchandising or whatever. I just try to make it real, that’s all.
What is your actual title and what does that entail? How do you typically spend your week?
Well, my business cards would say “Director of Business Development” and I’ve added an “… and Merchandising” to that because I have a hand in all the artwork for the shirts and hats, apparel — that’s another thing that a lot of people (have been) really drawn to like and buy lately. So I do a little bit of that.
Like I said, my dad and his brother run the team, and then beyond that we all kind of chip in. I go to the owner’s council meetings with them; it’s just a family effort. If there’s too much for one person, somebody else will come along and pick up the slack. It’s not compartmentalized; everybody has access to the same information. There’s no secrets. We all just try to make the team do as best as we can.
How do you draw the line on the difference between your personal account and the team account? Do you have a different tone on one than the other, or do you feel like you’re the same on both?
How do you do it with @jeff_gluck2? I don’t know. Again, it’s weird because all the information that I’ve gotten — and I don’t have a lot — but it seems like everything that NASCAR experts beat into the social media world is to be yourself and share aspects of your family life and this and that.
So I try to do that because we have a lot of people who are familiar with us beyond just the Ryan Blaney side and the race car side. There’s a lot of people who know our family history and where I fall into place in the family lineage and my kids (Riley and Bailey). So there are people who are familiar with that. I try to do a decent balance of the two, and sometimes I just get carried away and put too much attention into one or the other. It’s hard.
Do you think that if social media had been around during the prime of your career when you were racing, would that had made a difference in how long you lasted? You’re very witty, obviously, and maybe you could have developed more of a personality that the fans got to see. Would that have changed anything that went on in your career?
Maybe. It may have made it worse; I may have gotten kicked out quicker. (Laughs) I don’t know.
But it’s certainly a tool where if you use it and you use it well, it works. I mean, you look at Dale Jr. and then you look at Chase Elliott; you have two extremes there, one that uses social media to its full extent and one guy who doesn’t. And it’s not necessarily where one is right and wrong, but if you’re comfortable in that environment and you’re comfortable sharing every aspect of your life and showing yourself out mowing the lawn or at the dentist or whatever, then I think people appreciate that. And if you’re not, I think they respect that. But if it’s something that you’re comfortable doing, I feel like it’s a huge advantage.
What other forms of social media do you feel are important for the team side as a space you need to be involved in?
If I could grow one area — and again my sister does a lot of this too; she does most of the Facebook side and I handle the Twitter side — but I feel like we lack in Snapchat, Instagram. It depends on who you ask, but some people say Snapchat is equally or more important than Twitter.
But there’s two of us, and we can’t do everything; we can’t be parents and do the jobs that we do with the race team and be on all these different social media outlets 24 hours a day. That’s a lot. And then again, there’s only one car; we can only show so much. And when you’re Stewart-Haas or Penske Racing, you’ve got so many other things you can show and share. We don’t really have that. It’s just one team, you know?
I could be wrong, but are you anti-capital letters or something? You always tweet lowercase letters.
It’s whatever my phone does. And then I do have my laptop on during the race, so I’m not gonna take the time to worry about punctuation. I’m not one of those (people) who will respond to somebody and say “their” (versus there). I don’t care. If you get the point across, that’s all that really matters to me. I’m not like some who will do it in all caps. I just do what’s natural.
Is there anything else that you want people to know about what you do on social media or what the team does or your life or anything like that?
Again, we do the best we can, and there are some people who don’t really like that style, that sarcastic, witty (style). Some people might take offense to it if you’re one of the ones I respond to. It’s hard to understand somebody’s tone and their demeanor through looking at words on a screen — you don’t really know what they mean. But if it doesn’t follow up with a blocking or something like that, then I didn’t mean it in a bad way.