Social Spotlight with Brad Keselowski

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to explain how they use social media. This week: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske. The interview is available both in podcast and written form.

I’m here in Brad Keselowski’s hauler, and he’s currently making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which looks quite tasty. He’s got some strawberry jam.

I was in a grape family. Do you know how I rebelled? I switched to strawberry. Everybody rebels in their own ways.

You’ve always been a rebel, going strawberry after everybody else is going grape. But Brad, you were credited with sort of being the head of the Twitter movement in NASCAR thanks to your Daytona picture. But I think it’s sort of evolved for you. How has your Twitter usage has changed in the past few years here?

It’s definitely changed and I think your first comment about the Daytona 500 tweet, that was fun. I got some exposure for NASCAR and for Twitter too, which was great. But I just feel like that was one piece. There’s been like six or seven people, maybe more than that, who have moved it forward. You moved it forward, Jeff. I think Nascarcasm moved it forward. Dale Jr. joined and moved it forward. Kevin Harvick to me was the one who was really the first driver to embrace it of stature, so he moved it forward. I think we all had a piece of moving it forward, and I probably get a little more credit than I deserve. That’s probably my first thought.

I really don’t think so, actually. The way you were at that time as well as in addition to the tweet itself kind of opened the floodgates because you were very opinionated. Maybe you’ve gotten a little bit more…

I’m more conservative for sure. Definitely more conservative. I don’t know, it’s probably a part of being married.

But I think what happens, and this has happened for myself as well over the years with writing my opinions, is you get sort of tired of fighting certain battles. After a while you choose to not fight every single battle and let your whole opinion out there, and you just pick the ones that are the most important to you. Is that fair to say?

That’s absolutely fair to say. That’s well-played, Jeff. I couldn’t say it any better. You get to where you pick the battles that are going to be the most impactful and that you can win; you don’t try to fight every battle. I think that’s just part of getting older, not necessarily just social media.

What’s interesting is the people that have really developed social media are aging, and I think it’s changing the platform dramatically.

How is that? You mean the users themselves are changing their habits?

Yeah, I think so. I think probably your core people that really started the social media, and I’m not trying to claim to be one of them, but they’re getting older and I think that changes how the platform works.

And I don’t know how you are — we talked about rebelling with strawberry jelly — but young kids don’t want to be a part of what their parents did because that becomes uncool. So I’m curious where social media goes in that light.

I feel like a lot of people choose the platform they like and end up sticking with it and aren’t really eager to change. Some people will try the newer platforms that come out, but people will mostly just stick with what’s comfortable for them — whether it’s the most popular or not. I know over the years, you had started originally with a Facebook account and then you sort of went away from that?

I got mad at them.

That’s right, you got mad at Facebook.

They deleted my account because somebody turned me in as fake and I had a Facebook account for probably four years before that. I had all this really cool stuff and they just deleted it all. It just pissed me off.

I forgot about that. So now you’re on Twitter, obviously, and you’re on Instagram but it’s a private account. Is that correct?

Yeah, private. That’s per (wife) Paige’s request.

That’s where you can sort of have your own life without being in the public eye, so to speak.

Yeah, well sometimes I want to take a picture, and it ain’t gonna be the best picture or it’s gonna be a picture that’s relevant to me and not to my fans, but it’s relevant to my family. And that’s OK. I feel like I needed at least one social media play that was personal and for my family. So if I want to share 15 pictures of my daughter or a picture of a sunset or I wanna be somewhere and I don’t want people to know I’m there, that’s my platform to do it.

That’s interesting, because you’re using it sort of like Facebook, but you hate Facebook. So you’re using Instagram like Facebook.

I don’t necessarily hate Facebook. Hey, part of getting older is forgiveness. I’ve forgiven Facebook; that’s the easiest way for me to put it. I was frustrated at a younger age. Now I’ve moved on and I really like the Facebook Live feature.

That’s true, I forgot about that. And that’s something I wanted to ask you about in this interview as well, so let’s get into that because starting this year, I believe at Daytona, you started going around to some of the campgrounds at times and going on Facebook Live —

I’m pretty sure I did it somewhere last year. Watkins Glen. Yup, I did it at Watkins Glen last year. There are certain weekends where I don’t bring my daughter and there could be a number of reasons between where we’re at. I don’t travel my daughter past the Mississippi (River) — that’s a good rule of thumb because that’s too much for her and I don’t want her to deal with all that.

And Watkins Glen, I can’t remember why we didn’t bring her because that’s not past the Mississippi, but we didn’t bring her there. So Paige and I were on the bus, we just had our dinner and we got back and it was 9 o’clock and it was a beautiful night. I’ve always really liked the campgrounds at Watkins Glen and she had never seen them so I was like, “Hey, let’s go through the campgrounds.”

But what are we going to do when we go through the campgrounds — somebody’s always gonna spot you, right? (I said) “I don’t know, let’s give something away, I guess.” And somebody had been telling me about Facebook Live and said it’s a lot of fun, so it was like, “Well, I’ve wanted to do this Facebook Live, I’ve got a bunch of beer, a bunch of stuff to give away. Let’s see what happens.” So we did it. We had fun, the people were really cool, they were engaging, and that was just a good time.

So Daytona ended up being the same way: my daughter didn’t come because I just got married the week before and she stayed with Paige’s parents, so it was just us two. It turned into the same scenario and we had a lot of fun. Like, “Maybe we’ve got something here that’s kind of ours,” you know?

I think on social media, everybody looks for something that’s theirs. You know, Jimmie (Johnson) does the hat giveaway and everybody does something that’s theirs, and I really like the Facebook Live campgrounds because it was something that was mine and I could do that to honor our fans.

I’ve watched a lot of these, and some people are very happy and overjoyed that you come. Some people play it way too chill. I don’t understand why they would be so chill about a NASCAR driver coming with gifts to their campgrounds! They should be going crazy and they’re like, “Oh yeah, hey. Cool. It’s nice to see you.”

You know alcohol affects people in different ways, and a lot of these I go to –everybody knows a quiet drunk. Everybody knows a loud drunk. And usually we find people after they’ve been drinking, so that’s my explanation. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not. I’m not a doctor.

Obviously, Facebook Live stays on your Facebook page; it’s not like Instagram Live Stories, which go away right away. So that’s something that people can go back and check it out as well.

I do like that feature about Facebook, how it stays up there and you can do the “in case you missed it,” which I think is very helpful because you’re right, you don’t want it to disappear. And those people, that story lives on with them forever, right? Which is great, that’s one of the things I love about it so much.

I’ve already had fans come up to me and say, “Hey man, you came up to my campground in Daytona. We’re here in Dover and that was really cool and I just wanted to say hi again.” It’s really endearing to me and it’s fun. It really is.

One platform that I don’t think you’re on, as far as I know, is Snapchat. Why are you not high on Snapchat?

Mmm (pausing to chew sandwich).

I’ll let you finish your food. By the way, this looks like a fantastic sandwich that you’ve made here, and you’ve also gone with a selection of milk. So you got the wholesome peanut butter and jelly with the strawberry, the chunky peanut butter and the milk.

Chunky peanut butter is important because I think it has more protein. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I made it up on the spot because it says, “More protein” (on the label).

So why not Snapchat? That’s the question. I’ve never really taken to it. First off, you don’t know who’s watching. I don’t like that. I like to know who watches my stuff, I like to get number reports, I like the data. Second, I don’t like how it disappears. For the same reasons why I like Facebook Live, I like how I can post a story and it lives on forever. For Snapchat, it lives on for what, a day?

Yeah, 24 hours.

I don’t like that. Instagram Stories, Paige does that with my daughter. I like for my daughter that it lives 24 hours, but then even then I’ll look back like, “Ugh, where did that video go of her doing this or that?” She’s like, “Well, I have it on my phone saved.” Of course Snapchat videos don’t save to your phone at least. I don’t know if they do it, how to do it.

You just have to manually do it.

See, I don’t like that part. So I’ve never taken to it. I hear the numbers are incredible for those who are able to get access to it, but I don’t know, it’s just not for me.

Not only that, but I’m a big believer in laser focus: Pick something and stick to it and do it the best you can. And for me, that’s Twitter and Facebook Live.

So let’s go back to Twitter for a minute. You’re famously often on your phone. There’s many pictures of you, whether you’re at a press conference or waiting for a change in the garage, where you’re looking at your phone. Are you typically looking at Twitter in those situations?

No.

No? OK.

I wish I had my phone right now to show you, but I don’t. It’s locked upstairs. But I would show you, I have a number of apps that I use. I have racing apps, which could be timing and scoring. I have engineering apps for the car so I can understand what’s going on with the car. So I have a lot of different apps and tools that I look at. And then I have, of course, social media apps that I go on.

People automatically assume whenever I’m on my phone that I’m on Twitter, and it’s kind of funny to me. Like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right.” But I try to keep a number of apps. My phone is my connectivity device for not just social media, but also for my profession.

Obviously you’re still looking at it a lot, whether you’re on it every second or not. What do you get from Twitter? What are you taking out of it that you find most valuable and makes you want to stay on it?

Without a doubt, news. I read the news. You were at USA Today. Before social media, I read USA Today everyday. Every single day. And I would always get disappointed when there were days and news where there wasn’t a lot to read. And there’s still days on social media that are that way, but I can always find myself falling into a hole, or I’ll find somebody like, “This guy is talking about topics that I knew nothing about.”

If you watched my Facebook Live last night, we did one here through Wurth’s Facebook Live account, we were talking about the Paris Climate Agreement. That kind of stuff — I can’t find in-depth reporting about that stuff in most newspapers, so I’ll find somebody who’s an expert on the field and they’ll have an entire thread of, “Here’s what’s good, here’s what’s bad” — and of course they have their own biases in there — but I love reading those and I’ve fallen in those Twitter holes a lot.

The other side of that is people wanting to interact with you in your replies. Typically, how many of your replies do you read? Do you try and go through all of them, and what kind of interaction do you have with your fans?

One of the things I would say is any of the times where you want to see a reply, you can’t, which is a real bummer. Like when you won a race, you’re like, “Man, I really want to see what people are saying,” and people are saying nice things to you and you want to read it… I’m not able to do it because it doesn’t load them all. It only loads 30 or 40 of them, which is super frustrating because you missed out on all of that and I always feel bad about it. It’s such a bummer. So I would say first off, I would want to say thank you those people who write the stuff even though I don’t always get to see it.

(Editor’s note: Keselowski is referring to the standard Twitter app, which only loads up selected tweets and replies. Personally, I recommend using Tweetbot to avoid this problem).

And then most times, it’s the exact opposite — the times you can see the replies are when you really don’t want to, like if it’s a slow news week or something bad has happened and you’re like, “Argh, I don’t want to read this.” But for the most part, I try to read every one of them when I can, even when it’s bad.

When it comes to dealing with the bad, there’s three ways you could do it: You can ignore, block or mute. Which one do you typically choose?

I used to block. I stopped blocking. I regret that I blocked. If there was a function that showed who you’ve blocked in your life, I wish I could go back and unblock those people.

I think there actually might be. You may want to look into that.

Huh, I didn’t know that. OK. So someone’s gonna have to teach me that.

So I would say, I’m a big believer now, as just a theory in life, in truth and grace. I wrote a blog about it, I spent a lot of time studying it, that’s my new channel. So when it comes to replying, I believe in truth and grace. And if I have truth, I think that it’s worth writing someone, but only if it has grace. And the two are important because one can’t exist without another. Truth dies on a vine without grace, and grace doesn’t exist without truth. It’s really a simple principle, and I try to carry that over in all aspects of my life, including social media.

Any final thoughts on your general theory about social media or something you want people to know that I didn’t ask about?

First off, I’m honored that anyone thinks I’m interesting enough to follow. And I feel like sometimes, I have some stuff that’s worth saying and other times not so much. I get writer’s block, like anyone else, where I’ll feel like I might go a month and not have anything cool to say and then I might have two weeks of this, this, this and this.

So there’s some ups and downs. It’s just the way it’s gonna be. But I appreciate those who follow. I do all my own social media with respect to Twitter. I do have a little bit of help with Facebook, not the Live part, but the posts and so forth. But I try to be authentic, I try to have fun. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m doing the best I can and I appreciate that people follow.

Social Spotlight: @MonsterMile’s Lynn Sudik

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on his or her social media usage. Up next: Lynn Sudik, who is the social media coordinator for Dover International Speedway.

What exactly does your job entail? What are you in charge of? Do you have help tweeting and posting on Facebook and Instagram, or is it all you?

It’s a little bit different on race weekend versus the rest of the year. I work for the speedway full time and my primary responsibility is to handle our social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, Reddit — we’re on all of those channels. And then on race weekend I do have a little bit of extra help that comes in to capture content and post photos and other things like that. So this weekend, I actually have three people helping me with all of my social media needs.

For most of the year, your job is far different than two weekends which get super intense and busy and crazy, and I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure. How do you manage the plan going into a race weekend? How far out are you scheduling?

I use a social media management platform called Hootsuite. So I schedule a lot of my posts ahead of time. And what we like to do, since we don’t control the on-track product too much, we like to post about what it is we do control — i.e. stuff that happens in the Fan Zone and our Monster Mile Youth Nation area for kids.

So I will go in and look at our race weekend activities schedule, all of the driver appearances we have happening outside of the track. For example, this weekend we had Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex and the Sea Watch International display, we have the International Drone Racing Association here, so I will go in and find out when those events are happening and I will schedule a few posts to go out on various platforms to promote them and get people to go out and make sure that everybody’s aware of what’s happening.

What’s the balance then of running around on race weekend, getting content, photos, seeing what’s going on? You have the scheduled posts, but you also have tons of fan requests coming in that you’re having to manage. What’s the priority?

It’s definitely a challenge to strike that balance. Since I am the most knowledgable about our racetrack because I work here full time, I try to remain stationary in the media center for a good portion of the weekend so I can do those monitoring and scheduling posts to make sure that we’re covering everything and then that’s where my extra help comes in. A friend of mine, his name is Zach, he’s been helping me for a few years now and he’s actually been a race fan — that’s kind of how we got to know each other. He’s a big help in capturing some content on the outside that I can’t get to because I’m in the media center.

When fans tweet complaints to you, what’s your next step? Do you pass them along to other people? Do you just deal with what you can?

Any question that I know the answer to, I will address right there on the spot. If it’s a complaint or it’s a question that I don’t know the answer to, I will send that to the appropriate person on our staff and try and get that answer for that particular fan. I also try to let the fan know that we’re working through an answer for you; we’re not just leaving you hanging.

In general, I’m sure you get tweets like, “Hey, loving @MonsterMile, it’s so great to be here!” as well as people venting about things like, “Traffic @MonsterMile, you stink!” So is it more positive or negative?

We get a combination of all of the above and it also largely depends on the weather. So if we have a nice weather forecast, there are fewer complaints.

This past week for example, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the forecast for the race on Sunday wasn’t looking that great, so we were getting a lot of people asking us, “What’s the contingency plan? Will the race be run on Sunday? Will you move it to Saturday? Will it be run on Monday? What happens if Monday gets rained out?” I’m like, OK, let’s just take it one day at a time, the forecast is gonna change. So it does largely depend on what the weather situation is.

When it comes to a race weekend, is Twitter the one that you’re having to pay the most attention to? What happens to Facebook and Instagram on those weekends?

Twitter can be a handful to keep track of on race weekends. I will leave my computer for maybe a half hour and when I go back, it will take me about two hours to go through all the mentions that we have. It’s not that they’re negative, it’s not that they’re all questions or comments or concerns, but the race teams are tagging us in their practice photos and in photos of the drivers and lap times and all of that stuff.

So it’s sorting through what are tweets that I need to address and what are tweets that people are just posting about because they’re here. And that’s what we love to see, but it’s just a lot of the volume of tweets we get on any given race weekend is huge. Like I said, it takes me a while to sort through them all.

And then Facebook, people tend to spend a little more time complaining on Facebook just because they have more room to work with. So a lot of people will voice their concerns on our Facebook wall, and again, that’s where I can address it in the moment if I can. Otherwise I will pass it along to whoever and get answers or address whatever concerns people have.

How far out do you start planning the tweet up?

I guess it’s probably about a month out. It depends on the situation if we can get a guest there or not. Most of the times if we have to make an ask for a guest, no one is really concerned about our race until at the very least two weeks out.

But I also have a hand in some other things on race weekend. Our Monster Mile Youth Nation, we have a youth autograph session that NASCAR helps us to coordinate. I am the Dover point of contact for that, so when it comes to scheduling the tweet up, I need to make sure that I don’t have those times overlapping. So it also depends on my schedule and when I can make it work on race weekend.

I imagine there has to be a trust factor with your co-workers like Gary Camp (who leads the track’s communications), where you may want to tweet something at times, but obviously you can’t totally speak for the entire track on some issues or some decisions. Do you ever have to go to your co-workers and ask, “Hey am I allowed to say this?” Or have you been here long enough now that there’s a trust level?

When I started, they were a little more involved. I think one of the first days on the job, Gary talked about an intern who had handled their social media at one point before I got there and posted something weather-related, (saying) the weather didn’t look that great. (Camp) made a point that we never want to discourage people from coming to the track. So we always try to keep a positive attitude on our social media accounts.

But yeah, there is a trust factor, and I feel like I’ve figured out what is appropriate to say and what’s necessarily not going to go over well if it’s posted publicly.

What is your background? How did you get into it and what’s the suggested path you may have for people who want to make a similar career move?

I have wanted to work in motorsports since I was around 14 years old. I was born in Indianapolis and kind of grew up around IndyCar racing. I went to college, my degree is in communications. My first job out of college, I was working for a PR agency in New York City not related to motorsports at all. But I still had that dream and I still kept after it.

I actually found this particular opening through an online job board called TeamWork Online. A lot of the tracks, both independent and (International Speedway Corporation) and (Speedway Motorsports Inc.), they’ll post their openings on there as well as a lot of other professional sports leagues.

I also got my Master’s degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University. I just graduated this spring.

But if this is somebody’s dream job to work in motorsports, I would say to never give up. I had to work through a lot and it took me a solid five years of trying, applying for jobs, networking to actually land this particular job. So don’t ever give up on that dream if you want to work in motorsports.

That’s my top advice as well because I feel like a lot of people want to get into racing and then they realize it’s really hard to break in. Just to get that initial foot in the door, and I think a lot of people give up — so half of it is just persevering and sacrificing enough and never letting that dream go. Because eventually, if you’re truly passionate about it, some door will open. Do you know what I’m saying?

Yeah, I would definitely echo those sentiments. It’s about never giving up, it’s about persevering and sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.

I had made a lot of effort to network and get to know people in the industry, but this particular job I didn’t know anybody at the company before I applied for this opening. And it just kind of happened that I applied at the right time and they called me in for an interview and then I ended up getting the job.

So it’s definitely about who you know, but it can also be about what you know, so make sure that you keep trying and you sharpen your skills to the best of your ability in order to make yourself a viable candidate.

Is there anything else that you want people to know about what you guys do with the Monster Mile accounts or anything like that?

I feel like we talked a lot about people complaining, but I don’t want to the give the idea that the only posts that we receive on race weekend are complaints because they’re not. I just retweeted somebody who posted a picture in the Fan Zone and I was like, “Yeah! Love it! Have a great time, we’re so glad you’re here!”

So it’s a balance of all of those negative and positive comments, but if you’re not already following us, you really should be. We’re @MonsterMile on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and then on Facebook our page is Dover International Speedway.

Social Spotlight with Josef Newgarden

Each week, I’ll be asking a member of the motorsports community about their social media usage. This week: Josef Newgarden of Team Penske’s IndyCar program. I spoke to Newgarden at Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to the Indy 500.

I was just looking at your Twitter account. One thing that jumped out at me: You have only liked one tweet. Are you anti-like?

Well I guess everyone uses the platform differently, right? I’ve never really liked photos. I liked that one photo of all the helmets at the Indianapolis 500 lined up, which is a very cool photo.

You know, I’m like OCD almost. I’m either gonna like a ton of stuff or not like anything. I guess it’s weird that I have one like, but yeah, I’ve never really used it for that.

With Twitter, I more so use it for responding to people. It’s a great platform to answer questions — just cause people can ask you whenever — or just give out information about where you are or where you can meet, something like that.

I like a ton of tweets, because it’s my way of saying, “I acknowledge that.” But I always feel like if somebody was going to my account they’d see all these random-ass tweets that make no sense and have no order. So I kind of like your clean, uncluttered view.

Yeah, I mean that’s how I am. It’s very OCD I guess, but it’s just the way I’ve always been so I have not changed it. I’ll try to answer more, because I’m with you — a like is like an acknowledgment and it’s nice for someone to see that you like their post or that you at least saw it. But I try to answer as much as I can. I probably should answer a lot more, but if I’m gonna acknowledge it, I normally just answer to it.

Are you using Twitter as your newsfeed? Do you look at it every day in the morning?

Yeah, I do actually. I still think Twitter is probably the best social platform for quick news. (With) Facebook, you get kind of the same; it’s more blown up content and it’s kind of a bigger view of news. But Twitter’s really easy to just ramble through everything and it can always just give you a link to go somewhere to look at something bigger.

But yeah, I like it for (news). I like following informational sites (like) Wired.com if you wanna see something with tech. I mean it just can be any of these news outlets. I think it’s really helpful for that. So I like following it and then for me as a driver, I think it’s great for giving people information on what you’re doing or where you’re gonna be if there’s a meet-and-greet or something like that.

Now on the downside of this, Twitter can be sort of nasty at times. There are some trolls on there. How do you deal with that: Do you block people? Do you mute people? Do you just ignore it?

I just ignore it — I honestly do. I don’t even reply. There’s been a couple times where I’ve replied just cause I couldn’t help myself I guess, but I’ll never follow a reply. I’ll say something, have my two cents, and then just be done with it.

If it gets worse and starts spiraling out of control, I don’t continue. It’s literally one thing: That’s what I said (and leave it at that). And if I said something wrong, I’ll try to apologize, because it’s easy to get looked at wrong on social media for saying something that you didn’t mean or it had come across the wrong way.

But for the most part, I just ignore everything. There’s a lot of people that say a lot of stuff, and you just gotta be really good at just letting it go. I think that’s the best thing: To just let it go. And it’s probably the best way to handle it, cause these guys or girls, what they really want is a response. So if you don’t respond to them, it’s kind of the best thing to do, in my opinion.

We’ve all had situations where sometimes we’re following somebody and we’re like, “I don’t wanna follow this anymore. These tweets are irrelevant, they’re too much,” or whatever. How do you handle that? Do you just unfollow or do you mute people?

(Laughs) I think I’d go with the ignore thing again. I’ll see stuff I don’t like and I’ll just blow past it because I’ve gotten very efficient at scrolling fast. If I’m seeing stuff that I don’t wanna see, I’m just scrolling by it.

Even my girlfriend is like, “How are you even reading any of this?” And it’s literally just I’ll read one word and I’ll either like it or I don’t, so I just go past it. So I’ve not had to mute anyone, not really had to unfollow anybody because of that. I just ignore it.

What’s your take on Snapchat? I’ve seen you do some Snapchat takeovers, but do you have your own Snapchat account?

I can’t get into the Snapchat thing. I find it fascinating, because young kids now are — I mean, I’m a kid still I guess, technically — but you know, just young people that use Snapchat are so weird and hilarious, right? Like, people just have no shame. There’s no shame. And I don’t think people realize that if you put something on the Internet, it is permanent. OK? I don’t care if you delete it, it’s always there. You have put it out and into the world and it’s always in the world now. It’s gonna be there somewhere.

But people today, they don’t care. They love it. They want to share it. For me, I struggle because it’s like, Snapchat is a really constant thing. Like people want a photo here, photo here, video, video, video, like constantly little quick five-second blurbs.

So I feel like you’re missing out on the experience. I’d rather have one nice video or one nice photo of it and take the rest of the time to enjoy that experience. That’s why I can’t get into Snapchat.

That is true though. You go to a concert or something and everybody’s Snapchat is open. Or even here on 500 race day, I’m gonna walk around and anybody that’s under 20, they’re on Snapchat, and that’s the ultimate looking-through-your-screen thing.

Yeah, it’s a love/hate cause I’ve gotten sucked into the social media thing where I don’t post a ton — but I’m always on it. I’m always looking at it just cause I’m trying to understand it, what works, what doesn’t work, what people want to see, what they don’t want to see, what other people are doing. I get sucked into that game and I love and I hate it.

Social media is so great because it’s really a great tool, it’s awesome; the connectivity of it is amazing. But at the same time I also hate it because I just want to enjoy whatever I’m doing, you know? I want to be in the moment, in the present. I’m a little bit old school, I guess. It was almost nice when we didn’t have all this technology. So it’s a love/hate. I love technology, but I also hate it at the end of the day.

You said that you’ve tried to observe what works, what doesn’t, things like that. In your theory, what is your general philosophy on how much to share, what makes people respond to you, things like that?

I do think people want you to be real. I try to be as authentic as possible. Whatever I say is me; there’s no sugarcoating it. Maybe it’s a little bit politically correct sometimes, but it’s my opinion, so I’ll always be honest about that.

I’ve always tried to keep my personal life out it, which a lot of people think is a mistake because most people want to see the inside world that they normally wouldn’t, and that’s one of the nice things about social media — you get to see things that you wouldn’t normally get to see if you didn’t know a person, right

But I try to keep that separate. I use it much for more the professional side of, “Here’s what I’m doing professionally. Here’s what I’m doing in racing,” or it has something to do with racing. That’s all I use it for and I try to maximize that as best as I can.

I think I noticed that on your Instagram as well, because if you scroll through your Instagram feed almost everything is you at the track. It’s not stuff like, “Oh, here’s me doing this,” that kind of thing.

Yeah, pretty much. I use the platforms differently. Like Instagram I use more as an artwork page. I think it’s just beautiful photos of race cars, maybe some photos of me that people want to see within racing, but I normally like seeing photos of race cars myself, just really cool looking photos.

I’m a really big fan of photography actually. I’m not a great photographer, I’m not a photographer myself, but I really admire a lot of the photographers within the sport. Gosh, they get some awesome images sometimes, so I like sharing those and I also like seeing those.

That’s sort of what I use Instagram for, which really is what Instagram was originally made for: It’s a photo-sharing site. Twitter is more just, you can post a photo that doesn’t have to be beautiful; it’s just information, right?

Sometimes I try and be kind of random on my Twitter. I do try to show people my random side, which everyone I think has to some degree. You know, you’ll be eating fries or whatever one day and like you’ll have a thought on French fries and you just wanna share that. It has nothing to do with anything; it’s just a random sentence. I’ll sometimes do that on Twitter as well.

Is Facebook going the way of the dinosaurs like MySpace, or do you think that has a life?

I think it has a life, I just think it has an older life. That’s where all the moms, the grandfathers — it’s all old, you know? That’s not a bad thing: everyone has to have a demographic. I think Facebook’s just become more of an older demographic. There’s a place for that; you want to share with those types of folks as well. So I still get on it.

I look at Facebook and see a lot of things that’s going on. I do find it interesting (that) Facebook video has become very cool. For me, it’s become more of a younger reason to use it just because you don’t want to go to YouTube and search stuff; it’s really easy to see popular videos on Facebook now. I think they’ve done a great job with that. So if I use Facebook, it’s either to look at videos or to post a video. That’s, I think, one of the more useful tools for it.

From a sponsor standpoint and a team standpoint, are they telling you, “Hey, we want to see you on here, we want to see you doing this?” Is there a lot of that that goes on?

Yeah, for sure. I think you have to temper it. I think with either sponsorships or teams, you kind of measure your marketability. You measure how sell-able you are, how popular you are. It’s kind of terrible, but it’s just the way it is nowadays: everyone puts a value on social media. And so you have to have a presence almost, you’re forced to because of those factors, but I think I try to stay true to myself.

If there’s something I don’t wanna do on it, I just don’t do it. If it’s something that a sponsor really wants me to do and I don’t love it, then I try and spin it into something that is more authentic to me. I think that is always more impactful than just putting up an ad. You put up an ad and people can see it immediately like, “This is just a posted tweet that someone wanted you to put out.” And no one wants that — no one wants to see it. It’s not gonna help the company at the end of the day. So you gotta make it authentic and real, and I think that resonates a lot better with people.

Do you have one or two favorite people to follow on Twitter that people may not be following themselves right now?

I gotta say, probably the greatest person on Twitter, and I think a lot of people would agree, is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now, he does the exact opposite of what I do — but he is a master at it. If you’re gonna go full-in and you’re gonna show people your world, I don’t think anyone has done it better than Dale Jr. He really masters it well. I think he’s fun to follow. For me, that’s why you follow someone on social media, is for that kind of stuff that I just said I don’t wanna do — and he’s probably the best at it. So I enjoy following him.

I just enjoy following all of the drivers because you get to see what everyone’s up to, whether it’s Jimmie Johnson or other NASCAR guys or it’s the IndyCar drivers like Scott Dixon. I enjoy following motorsports. Fernando Alonso, it’s been fun to follow him. Obviously, this is a new journey for him at Indianapolis so it’s interesting to see how he perceives the event, how he shows people the event. So I love following drivers.

Again, I like following news feeds, just different tech sites, any sort of news outlet that’s gonna give you good information on stuff that you’re interested in. I follow all those types of stuff.

Thanks to Dover International Speedway for sponsoring the 12 Questions and Social Spotlight over the past couple months. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race this weekend, please consider using my ticket link.

Social Spotlight with Jon Wood of Wood Brothers Racing

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.

Social Spotlight with Matt DiBenedetto

Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Matt DiBenedetto from GoFas Racing, who is in the midst of a campaign to get voted into Saturday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race.

Ever since you’ve opened up your Snapchat account to the public (username: mattdracing), I’ve seen a whole new side of you. What kind of reaction have you gotten so far since you opened that?

I didn’t expect it to blow up quite as much as it has. Every race so far, after I opened my Snapchat account to being public, I’ve gotten tons of people who are like, “Oh my gosh, your wife’s gonna kill you one day. That’s so hilarious.” So it’s been cool. It’s getting like thousands of views.

No kidding? That’s crazy. I’ve been on Snapchat for quite a long time and I don’t have anything close to those numbers. So why did you decide to open it after being private for a while?

I was already like famous amongst my friends for my Snapchats, you know, pranking people and torturing my wife (Taylor) and all that crazy nonsense that I get into. But all my friends were like, “Dude, the fans would love this stuff. It’s hilarious.” And so I was like, “You know what, I think I need to do it and post on my story. It’ll be fun to share with everybody.”

And man, it’s gone damn near viral amongst the fans. They think it’s hilarious. Even Dale Jr. tweeted about it because I’m friends with him on Snapchat and I’ll send him some stuff and he’s like, “You wanna see someone who pranks his wife and funny stuff, all of that?” So that’s been good.

You sing in the car on Snapchat, you definitely prank a lot of people. Last week, you were using an air horn to prank your wife and things like that. Do people not ever get mad at you? Are they just like, “That’s Matt,” and they just laugh? Surely people must sometimes be like, “You jerk!”

I’m just annoying and people are just kind of OK with it at this point. (Laughs) Yeah, my wife’s a good sport — I don’t know why she tolerates me. If I was in her shoes, there’s no way that I would.

Actually, her and my neighbors did try to get me back and scare me with a firecracker the other day, so she’s on it. Her prank game just isn’t quite on my level yet, but I think she’s gonna start learning — or is gonna have to learn pretty soon.

Do you have your messages open, where random people can send you stuff? Or are you not at that point yet?

I don’t think so. I don’t know how that works quite yet, so no, right now I think I just have it to where it’s public and everybody can go and view my stuff that I put on my story.

The more you get into the public eye, the more your life becomes public. How do you decide how much you want to share with the fans and people like that out there?

I think it’s just fun that we have the ability to share our lives with all those folks. That’s what it’s about. Racing and being able to do what we do for a living isn’t in any way possible without the fans — really, we’re nothing without them — so it’s a privilege for me be able to share all that stuff and share my life with them because they’re the ones that make it possible for all of us to be doing that. I’ll definitely never forget that, and I hope none of the other drivers or anybody else ever forgets that either because that’s what it’s about.

I would never be rude to a fan or anybody — I treat everybody with respect and I appreciate them because they’ve allowed me to be here and I’ve gotten a good following from all of them. Whether they know it or not, they’ve been a big part of why I’ve gotten to where I am now, because all the fans have given me a ton of support and that’s important. That’s attractive to race teams; they know I’m personable and fans like me, which is great. I’ve been fortunate enough to have that. So I have fun with it.

You’ve been active in the Reddit world where there’s a lot of fans and a lot of people who support you. What’s that experience been like when you log onto Reddit?

Dude, those people are passionate. It’s really cool. It’s fun being part of their community. It started a long time ago when I wore one of the old Dogecoin shirts with Reddit on it and stuff. It was a Reddit-backed effort, and I thought it was neat, so I kind of jumped on it and I was wearing the shirt and then it kind of went viral amongst the community.

I’ve gotten a lot more active just because, for one, it’s fun and it’s kind of addicting. Those people are so passionate and they really are intelligent — they know a lot about (NASCAR). Heck, they know more about racing and what’s going on than I do! (Laughs) I learn a lot of stuff on there.

So it’s been cool with just how knowledgable they are, how funny some of the stuff is in there. In the comments, the stuff they come up with is absolutely comical, so it’s been fun to see how supportive those guys are. Every race I go to, I meet tons of people (from Reddit), and that’s a good bit of my following, which is cool.

I feel like you’ve genuinely embraced it. Sometimes I’ll be looking at a thread and be like, “Well, Matt just weighed in on that.” It wasn’t necessarily something about you and you weren’t specifically called to it; you just were clearly looking through the comments and decided to chime in. So you’re trying to be part of the community and not just when it’s about you.

Yeah, I just have fun surfing through there. There’s always interesting threads and reads on there, so I just kind of scroll through it like I would any other form of social media. I enjoy looking at the stuff people say. Some of it is really funny, but some of it is interesting. So yeah, I just go through there, comment, chit-chat with people, and start some threads every once in a while.

(A couple weeks ago) I picked up my new Can-Am Maverick X3, so I shared the thread on there with everybody so they could all see it. It’s been fun.

As we record this in Talladega, the All Star Race voting is not open at this moment (Note: It’s obviously open now). But when it does open, it’s going to be a short amount of time. Maybe that will help, because your fans will be able to mobilize for you and get you into the race.

Yeah, we’re lucky to have all their support. And Reddit, specifically, they have some really cool ideas on there, you know, things we can do and they’ve talked about wrapping a race car in a Reddit paint scheme if we get voted in.

So I took that idea and said, “Hey, maybe so.” We talked to the team and they were OK with it, so we got the approval on that. So we’re gonna get back to them and hopefully wait on the voting to open up.

But hopefully, we can lean on all those folks from all sorts of different social media outlets and all the fans. I think they understand our situation, that we’re a small team, and they really back it and support us a lot. It’s pretty overwhelming.

Did you ever get any sense of how close the voting was last year?

Yeah, it almost ate at me because of how close I learned it was. I think if Chase Elliott raced his way in, we would have gotten that second fan vote. So we were right on the border. It was very close. So it was cool for all those people who voted to get us that close.

You know, those people (like Elliott) drive for powerhouse teams, so it’s a lot easier for them to get a huge following and to get voted in with all the backing and support that they have and driving for a big team, while I’m a little guy. For us to get that close was pretty neat, so I feel like we can do it this year with everyone’s support.

Let’s talk about Twitter. That’s another form of social media, and you’re on there as well. How often do you use your Twitter account?

Every day, and I’ve searched through there, same deal. So every day, I try to interact with the fans, share all the funny stuff. Actually Ryan Ellis, my PR guy, got a good picture of me on the airplane that he shared on social media this morning of me passed out saying I was revved up and excited for the weekend. (Laughs) But yeah, I use Twitter a lot, probably as much as anything.

Is it something where you’re using it to stay in touch with what’s going on in the sport? What’s your primary reason for being on there?

I think there’s different groups of fans in each social media outlet. You know, one may fit some fans over others. So I try to cover them all so I can engage with all the different groups of people and fans. I don’t know if I have a preference on any of them; they’re all so different and they all have different groups of folks within each community. So I like to reach out to all of them.

You use Facebook and Instagram as well?

Yep! Both of them. So I’m trying to figure out which one I’m on the most. I’ve been hopping on Reddit a lot lately just because it’s kind of addicting. I’m probably on Twitter the most because I have the most followers on there, but I like Facebook for how easy the engagement is — you know, doing a Facebook Live and such. Instagram I’ve been getting into more. So I feel like I cover them all fairly evenly. I try not to focus on one and forget about the others.

What happens when you come across a hater or somebody that’s trying to get a reaction out of you, somebody trolling you? Do you ever use the block button?

No. I make fun of myself probably more than anybody could make fun of me, so if I get something like that, I usually roll with it or just make fun of myself some more, you know?

I have a theory in life: when somebody makes fun of you or tries to pick at you and make you mad, if you in turn make fun of yourself back to them, what do they do? There’s no response. I’ve done that to people who have made comments or have tried to make me mad, and I say something to make fun of myself and they’ll just sit there dumbfounded. They’re like, “Oh…what do I say now? That kind of backfired.” That’s usually my tactic.

That’s a good point. It sounds like in general, you find a lot of the positive sides of social media. It can be very negative at times, but it sounds like you have good experiences for the most part there.

Yeah, all good, really. You just have to be really careful in today’s world about what you say, and I like to be a pretty open book and share my personal life. You know, I don’t want my stuff to be really boring, straightforward and everything about, “OK, we finished here today in my Can-Am No. 32 Ford Fusion.”

Obviously, I want to share my performance and how we’re doing from the team side, but I like to give everyone a more in-depth look of, “OK, I actually own a Can-Am vehicle. I grew up riding, and that’s how I got into racing.” Or from the team side, just showing how hard they work behind the scenes. (Or) what I do during the week at home, my personal life, like going to the gym. Stuff like that, that’s more interesting and that’s the stuff I like sharing with people, so I try to use it as an all positive thing.

With being so open, I have to be careful a little bit about what you say, but I feel like I live a pretty basic lifestyle; I don’t do anything that would get me in trouble, so I’m pretty normal.

Except for blowing airhorns at people.

(Laughs) Yeah, OK. I should be careful when I say “pretty normal.” My friends and my wife probably wouldn’t agree with me on that. She’s sitting right by us…

She’s shaking her head right now.

Yeah, she knows better.

This interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race next month, please consider using my ticket link.

Social Spotlight with Jim Utter

Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Jim Utter of Motorsport.com. This interview is also available in podcast form.

What is your general philosophy when it comes to using Twitter? Are you using it as your business account, personal account, a mix of both? How do you look at it?

Well, I don’t know if you remember this, but I was actually one of the last NASCAR beat writers to go on Twitter (he joined in July 2009). I vigorously resisted doing so, more because I saw it as more of a personal thing. … At the time I just really wasn’t interested in it.

Then I started to get some blowback from the (Charlotte Observer) office about utilizing it as a work-related tool. And so I really only got on Twitter because I was kind of encouraged by work to start doing that. But I told them when I did it, I was like, “Look, this is gonna be me. I’m not gonna try and pretend to be someone else, I’m not gonna try to not say stuff.” Because I always thought and viewed it as a representation of myself: What I like, what I don’t like, how I feel.

But at the same time, I always viewed it as something — and I still don’t understand to this day why people do this — that shouldn’t be used as an escape mechanism to say nasty things to people that you wouldn’t otherwise say to their face.

So I was one of the last to get on. When I did, my theory was I was just gonna tweet about what I was doing related to work, the racing stuff.

At one time, there were so many (NASCAR media) people on Twitter that there was a running joke. Like you would say, “Caution,” and 17 people would say, “Caution,” on Twitter all at the same time because we’re all right (next to each other).

So my thing was always during races to try to listen and tweet things that other people weren’t necessarily tweeting about. I would try to — and I still do this to some extent — tweet snippets from radio conversations.

I do keep track of the race on race days, but I try not to just (tweet), you know, “Here’s the lineup,” or, “Caution.” Sometimes you still do that, but I can understand the other perspective of people looking at their timeline and watching it blow up with the same exact tweet 15 times if you’re following 15 different NASCAR media people.

And then, while I was still at The Observer, I went to a Poynter Institute seminar about tweeting — it was like a webinar, I guess, through your computer. And the people who put it together basically said that they found the best use of one’s Twitter, if you’re also using it for work, was to use the “one-third rule.

One third of the time you tweet about the work that you’re doing, the actual work that you’re doing that goes on Twitter or sending out link, stuff like that. One third (is) about the things you like/dislike, your own personal stuff — like I travel and visit lighthouses, I’m a big Civil War buff, the shows that I watch on TV, I’ve met WWE people and I’ve been to see The Voice taped in Los Angeles, so I tweet about that a lot. And one-third (is) communicating with the people that you follow.

So I’ve kind of followed that. I’ve never been one to think about having your own personal account to follow, because I kind of figure it’s probably hard enough for me to get somebody to follow me anyway, I don’t need to ask them to do it twice.

Well it’s funny, because I don’t watch The Voice and I try to keep up with your hashtags and try to mute them. So I’m like, “Gosh, Utter’s tweeting about The Voice again, how do I — ?”

One time you said something on Twitter about it, and I responded to you, “For somebody who’s so social media savvy, it’s kind of odd that you would criticize a show that is one of the best at utilizing social media.” They incorporate Twitter when they got to their live shows.

Peter King from the NFL, he’ll just start tweeting about his dog or coffee or something, and I really don’t care about it, you know? I’m like, “Dude, I’m just really following you for the NFL news. I do not need to know about your dog.” You know what I mean?

Yeah, and I understand that there’s people who follow you for a particular reason. But my response generally to people who say that is: It’s my Twitter, and work is only part of what I do; it’s only part of me.

And you would be surprised. As many people as you might get who say, “Man, I don’t want to hear about that crap, blah blah blah,” I get just as many people who go visit a lighthouse, they send a random picture and share it with me, they ask me if they know which one it is, if I’ve been there and visited it.

We’ve had a lot of people within the NASCAR community who are also big Civil War buffs, and even drivers and stuff, so I get comments when I post pictures if I’m visiting somewhere. And you’d be surprised, but there’s a few that follow The Voice too, but they don’t always tweet about it.

In addition to your lighthouse pics and your Civil War stuff, you’re also known for rarely backing down from your opinions on Twitter. If you have an opinion, you’re going to state it and then if other people disagree, you’re going to take them on. You’re not going to say, “OK, yeah, that’s fine.” You’re going to say, “No!” And then you’re go back and forth with them.

The arguments, do you enjoy going back and forth with people or are you frustrated they’re not seeing your point of view?

I have absolutely no problem with going back and forth with people. In fact, I enjoy it. Where I draw the line is if you can’t have a civil conversation without turning to profanity and calling people names and stuff, or just people saying, “Well that’s just stupid, you’re a dumbass,” and all that stuff.

Look, opinions are opinions; that’s what they are. They’re supposed to be what you think. If your opinion can be swayed every time by someone disagreeing with you, then you really don’t have an opinion; you’re just going with the flow. So when people say, “You never back down from your opinion,” that’s probably (why).

There’s a difference to me between things that are factual and can be looked up and decided whether you’re right or wrong, and things that are true opinions, where it’s just me and you or whoever just stating what they think the situation is or is not. And it’s alright to disagree with people.

And I know you hear a lot of people complaining about me blocking them, but I can promise you that every person who complains about that said something really nasty in their tweet. Usually I send them a reminder of what they said; I usually send the reminder before I block them. So like, “If you’re wondering why, this is why.” And people complain all the time.

The kind of funny thing is, when I was at the Observer, there were people that I blocked who said really nasty things — and they would complain to my editor. And it would be like, “Well, you said this.” (They would respond by saying) “Well, you didn’t have to take it so seriously.”

Look, you choose your life; we’re all responsible for what we say.

But there were people who wound up saying something to me, who I blocked, who went to the Observer website. When you write bylines at the Observer in the paper and online, it had your e-mail address underneath — (so they would) would email me and apologize and ask me if I would unblock them.

Did you do it?

Honestly, I have relented a couple of times. And I don’t make a big deal about it. You know, look, if somebody’s willing to realize that they made a mistake and can carry out a conversation without being a jerk about it, that’s OK.

Some people say some things that are really nasty, and I’m just like, “Ugh, no, sorry. You had your chance.” One and done.

Do you ever worry you’ve blocked too many people? If you have a story that you need to get out there, it could impact the overall scheme of page views?

No, because in general — and this wouldn’t necessarily be true for you because you’ve kind of branched out on your own now — but for me, far more people see what I write by going to Motorsport.com and looking it up in various ways or having it shared on Facebook and their Twitter account than ever see it just from mine, even if I do have a lot of followers.

And that’s the other thing: Twitter is a tool, but it’s not the only tool, and it frustrates me sometimes. I had this conversation with you, about trying to make generalizations about the fanbase or the world in general based on who shows up on Twitter, because everybody is not on it and everybody who uses it is not on it at the same time.

It’s (one) method of gauging response — but it’s not necessarily an accurate method for gauging response. The funny thing to me is how many people, and you’ve probably run onto it, who actually believe that most people are on Twitter.

It’s really, honestly, less than 20% (actually 21% of all U.S. adults, according to Pew Research).

Yeah, it’s very small. And then you take that number and then divide it down to a NASCAR fan, right? Twenty percent of the general population — what level of that is the general NASCAR fan who’s on Twitter? The number keeps getting smaller and smaller and smaller. So the world that you’re talking to is really not that big in the general sense.

But before Twitter existed, we never had a method to communicate with people, fans, other drivers, people in the sport, other sports…

You had to wait for a letter to the editor.

Exactly, a letter to the editor or they emailed you, when email came around. That’s the part I think that has changed the dynamic and it has made it where people — even if it’s an unrepresentative sample, and even if it’s not the majority — they still have a method to communicate with you that they’ve never had before.

So I try to appreciate that, but at the same time I also try to keep in mind that it’s not necessarily a representative example of all that’s going on. One thing I saw that’s very interesting was, you know, NASCAR has the fan survey that’s entirely not anything to do with Twitter or social media.

The fan council thing.

And the responses the fan council gets are, in many times — and I’ve seen some of the stuff — dramatically different than from, say, a random Twitter poll. So that’s why I say you’re talking to a group of people who happen to be on Twitter at that moment. They may all agree at that moment that it’s a bad thing.

But you have to remember why you follow people, too. Do you necessarily follow people that you don’t like what they say? Generally not, right? On your personal side, you’re generally following people that you’re interested in, you like what they say, you share their opinion, maybe share their politics.

So you’re not, in general, going to expose yourself to people who have contrary views, which is why many times on social media, everybody always seems like they’re complaining about something — because they’re hearing something that they don’t like to hear in general.

What’s interesting when I think about this sort of echo-chamber concept for Twitter is even though the data might be different from what NASCAR sees on the fan council, doesn’t it feel sometimes that NASCAR makes decisions or reactions on stuff based on what they’re seeing on Twitter?

So it’s sort of this very powerful thing, and you’re right: It may not be representative of what’s going on, then NASCAR makes a decision, then all of a sudden people are mad. And they’re like, “What happened? Everybody on Twitter felt this way.”

And the reason is because all the people who are fine and dandy with it didn’t say anything: “I have no reason to complain. I’m happy with what they did.”

Then they make the decision, and then the other side is what you hear from because they’re the ones that are upset now because they changed it: “I didn’t want it to change.”

But it’s the truth if you look back at the letters to the editor in the newspaper. Most people don’t write in to say that something is wonderful — they write in because they don’t agree with something. There are exceptions, of course, but let’s face it: Even responses to stories online, most people are saying something contrary to the premise of the article — they don’t agree with it, they think it should be more this way, less that way.

Most of them don’t sign on to say, “That’s the best thing I’ve ever read.” I mean, sometimes they do. You’ll write a great story and you’ll get people who will call you out on Twitter and say, “You should really check out this story that Jeff wrote. It’s really good.” But by and large, that’s not what you see.

Do you view your real life persona and your Twitter persona as the same thing? Do you play it up as sort of a character at all?

I don’t try to change. If your only interaction with me is on Twitter, like if you never hear me speak or you’ve never met me in person… (and) the only time you come across what I do is on Twitter, (then) maybe most of the time it appears I’m in an argument with somebody, right? So you probably think, “Wow, that guy’s a jerk. Every time I turn on Twitter he’s arguing with somebody.”

But that’s what we do. Do you know what I mean? That’s part of our jobs: we all have opinions and we share (with) each other. I’ve actually joked about this with NASCAR people who say, “I hate that tweet. I really hated that tweet.” I say, “You know what? Next time that happens, wait five minutes, and I promise you I’ll have moved on to something else.” You get too wrapped up in things.

The other thing I can’t stand is being corrected about spelling. First of all, I don’t get graded on spelling on Twitter. I don’t get any prize if I spell correctly. I don’t get paid more — I don’t get paid a dime to tweet, by the way, it’s just part of what I do. So I don’t care about spelling on Twitter. I don’t care if I used the wrong verb tense or anything.

The things that irk people sometimes are just really strange to me. Why would you even care? It’s like writing on Facebook — do you check your grammar before you do a post? I use Facebook generally more for family and stuff, I don’t really do too much with work. Sometimes I’ll share articles.

But you’ll get people who are like, “Well that was a crappy picture. You should have used a better camera.” Well I’m like, “I don’t have a better camera! I used the camera I have! Thanks, though.”

Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and I think if we just accept that not everything is and everybody has faults, you just have to get past them.

One last thing. If some people read this and are like, “Man, Jim, can you unblock me?” How can they get through to you? Do you want people to email you, or what can they do?

(Laughs) If you’ve been blocked and you really have a good reason why you shouldn’t be, you can e-mail me at jim.utter@motorsport.com.

But to be honest with you, I have this little comeback when people say, “Jim Utter blocks everybody on Twitter!” And I’ll be like, “I have almost 60,000 followers. So you’re saying that I would have 125,000 or 300,000 followers if I unblocked everybody?” I can promise you that’s not the case.

This interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

Social Spotlight with Kenny Wallace

Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Kenny Wallace, the longtime driver and FOX Sports analyst. This interview is also available in podcast form.

You were one of the first people in NASCAR to really understand social media, understand how to use your Facebook page, your Twitter page. You’ve always been so into it. Why did you embrace it early on? What did you see in it that made you feel like you need to be part of that?

Well this is incredibly true: It had nothing to do with me. What happened was I had a gentleman who was running KennyWallace.com, and I thought it was boring, and I said to him, “We need to put video on KennyWallace.com.” He said to me, “It’s too expensive.” So then all of a sudden, he said, “Let’s go to Facebook and you can do videos for free there.” And then I remember saying, “Facebook is for children.” And he was appalled; he says, “No it’s not.”

So fast-forward. My career was kind of not going real good and I was driving the U.S. Border Patrol car for Jay Robinson (in 2009). Well, they said, “You’re gonna have to start and park in Montreal, Canada, because U.S. Border Patrol is not gonna be a sponsor there.” Made sense. But I remember being appalled (about being asked to start and park).

First of all, I want to say this: we all do what we have to do, and I’m no better than anybody, but I do not start and park. Maybe it’s just because of my father and my family being so competitive. And I wasn’t broke, but I was not going to start and park.

So I called NASCAR up and we had this idea to create a fan car. So NASCAR said, “You can get away with it, Kenny Wallace.” I remember them saying that. So then that’s how it started: it was everybody could put their name on our car that we raced in the first Xfinity race in Montreal, Canada.

We raised an enormous amount of money (roughly $100,000) and some 7,000 people’s names were on the car, and I wrote Jay Robinson a check and that is the way that I got it out, on Facebook. And then that’s when I went, “Wow. OK.” Then it became entertainment and that’s how it all started with me.

So you are very entertaining on all social media. I’m sure there’s been times where you put out something and you were like, “Oh my gosh, did I go too far with this?” Because you are not afraid, from what I can tell. How do you know when you go too far on social media?

Well, when I look back, there’s things that I’m embarrassed of. In my early days, I still listened to Howard Stern — and I still listen — and people just had this fascination with going to the bathroom. So I felt, “Well, I’ll try this. I’m not gonna copy Howard but…” So I was taking pictures of myself around porta-potties, in porta-potties, and I’m like, “This is ridiculous.” They had the most retweets, they had the most (reply) tweets. Am I embarrassed by that nowadays? I’m like, “Oh my gosh,” you know.

But we all have this fascination with bathrooms. You know, I don’t know if I’d do that over again. Of course, I did something a little about pooping today, which was a little lighthearted. But you know, I really do get something ready to go, I read it and read it and go, “Nope.”

Oh my God, I’ve deleted so many things. I can promise you right now, the hardest thing for me to do is not involve myself in this political viewpoint we have right now because I’m a Republican, and I have so much to say, but I just know you can’t win. And then it becomes no fun and that is when I think I’ve gone too far nowadays.

And I don’t like to hurt. For some reason, I like to crack a joke. I did say something the other day that I did delete. Somebody said that (Eric) Thames with Milwaukee in Major League Baseball has 11 home runs, and what do other players think of that? And I sarcastically tweeted, “Ask (Ryan) Braun” — Braun got caught with PEDs, steroids. And a fan said, “Come on Kenny, can’t a guy just have a good start this season?” And I thought, “Yeah, that was mean of me.”

But I did put that laughing face behind it. But I went back and deleted the tweet. You know, it just came to my mind right away, so it is natural for me to be conversational, tweet because I’m bored at an airport. I don’t like going too far.

You talked about some of the blowback that you might get sometimes — you know, political tweets, whatever. How do you handle people who say something mean, because you’re a very positive person from everything I’ve been able to tell all over the years. Do you just block them, or do you ignore people? How do you handle it if somebody’s coming at you?

That’s a great question, because I’ve had to teach myself and I’m like anybody else: I get my feelings hurt. I’ve been roughed up, I’ve felt like it’s been 300,000 people against me. But I’m tough, so I never say, “Why me?” and I’m really into therapy. I mean, I don’t take therapy, but I tease some really good friends of mine that are very mature and are good to me.

So what I did is when people would rough me up, I would turn it around and I would kind of play a game with them. I would say, “Wow, what happened in your childhood to make you so negative? I really feel sorry for you.” And I would never argue with them. And so I would always use the childhood thing. That always seemed to work — go back to why they’re so mean.

Then all of a sudden, I felt, “Well, this is silly. Don’t even respond.” So I literally started this one deal I had. I said, OK, you can say, “Hey Kenny Wallace, you were no good as a race car driver.” And I would say, “Well, you know, at least I tried.” Or I would say, “I didn’t accomplish what I wanted, but I made a lot of money doing it.” That would be a little bit of a sarcastic innuendo.

So all of a sudden, I said OK, you can debate with me. You can rough me up. But as soon as you cuss me out, if you go really hardcore, I block people. And I’ll tell you, I’ve probably blocked 100 people, I would say that. And it really silenced the noise.

Well it’s interesting because you want to be interactive with people, you want to be fan-friendly, you want to be approachable, all that stuff, but once somebody is like ruining your day with their tweets, they forget that everybody on the other side of it is still human. You still have feelings. You can’t just say, “Whatever, that doesn’t mean anything to me.” If somebody says something, it can get to you. So you can actually make it more fun for yourself by eliminating seeing these tweets in some way.

Here’s what I learned about. Years ago, a dear friend of mine, Felix Sabates, and myself got in a knock-down drag-out over something I said about Chip Ganassi Racing. I simply said they weren’t a top 10 team. I said Kyle Larson’s goal should be to run in the top 20. Well, Felix got really mad at me, and he attacked me and we talked to each other, we were about in tears hugging each other.

So here’s what I say about tweeting: I can start at first in the points in any series. I can start with Kyle Larson and I could go to the 40th place driver, and I could say negative, mean stuff about them — and it’d be true. But that’s not right. So my point is: you can take a four-time champion, Jeff Gordon, and I’ve got enough on him where I can really hurt his feelings. Just because he won 90-something races, everybody’s still got… you know they can be hurt, and they all got secrets, and I know them.

So I said to myself, “Isn’t that something? If I wanted to, I could hurt anybody. Anybody that’s really good!” I could hurt Jimmie Johnson. Just because you’re good at any type of sport doesn’t mean you’re perfect. And once you realize that, and you see Jimmie Johnson get roughed up, it’s like, Jeff Gluck, you, or I, we could get roughed up. Hell, they rough up a seven-time champion more than they do us, so that’s when you really start to bring in the scope. If they can rough up anybody, then that’s when everybody’s free game. And then, it’s just not right.

Part of your social media success in my view is it’s an extension of your personality. When I see you with people, you’re very warm, you’re very approachable. Somebody will come up to you and say, “Hey Kenny, I’m a big fan!” And you’ll put your arm around him, you’ll make it seem like you’ve been friends for a long time. I feel like I want to be more like that in someways; I need to be warmer with people. I guess my question is, how do you open yourself up to people you’ve maybe never met, or you don’t even know what their motives are necessarily, but you are willing to embrace them. How do you do that?

Well, when I look back on my childhood — now what I’m telling you now, I had to learn about myself. So my mother Judy says, “Kenny, you’re an old soul.” And I was like, “What is that, Mom?” And she says, “Well, you’ve been here before.” And I am laughing a little about it. But if you believe in reincarnation, and God knows that we have dreams when we go to bed, it’s kind of voodoo, like, “Gosh, I think I’ve done this before.”

So, with that being said, I was in school and I was always squeaking my chair. I was seeking attention from the teachers. I was always in trouble and they sent me to a therapist. And the therapist said, “He has a sibling rivalry with his brothers. Kenny is reaching out for attention — he’s competing with Rusty Wallace and Mike Wallace.” Well that’s untrue, because I know myself.

What I can tell you I learned about myself is for some reason, if there’s tension or people are arguing, I don’t like it. Now, I am a leader and a boss, but I don’t believe in roughing people up. I believe in organization and big nice meetings, but I don’t believe you have to be a total prick.

So I was born a lover, and I mean that, because I’ve read some things by Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith. I’ve seen Steven Tyler give the biggest obese lady the biggest hug and just embrace her, when most people would go, “Oh my God, you’re too big. You’re nasty.” And my mother said, “Boy, Kenny, you are always good to little old ladies.” And it just taught me that, you know, you can’t just hug good-looking ladies. Everybody needs love. So Jeff, I kind of compiled all that and I’m like, “Everybody needs the love.”

You know, my brother Rusty, he’s won 50-something races and he flat-looked at me one day and he was mad at me. He said, “OK, Kenny, you win the ‘Everybody likes me’ award.” And I looked him, and it had crushed me. My brother Rusty was jealous of me that everybody liked me. So, you know, but I’m jealous of Rusty — I’d love to have one Cup win. But here I’ve never won a Cup race, and he wants what I have.

And Jeff Gordon said to me, “God, I wish I could laugh like you, Kenny.” And he was serious. And I take these great drivers, and then I had to learn that, “Oh my God, all they’re good at is driving a car around in circles really fast.”

You know, I really started learning what was wrong with us. So somebody can hit a baseball really far, and what, now you can solve world peace? So I just know that everybody needs to love everybody and nobody is really better than anybody. And if you’re really good at something, I really respect you and I admire you for it. But it doesn’t mean you’re a good person.

Well that’s important and I think that can come through on social media and make a difference because there’s so much negativity out there. If you can sort of cut through that and spread a positive message, make people feel good, show that there’s a different way, put aside the angry people and try to have fun with it, I think that seems to be the key to enjoying social media. I feel like you, maybe more than anybody I see out there, have sort of captured that. Is that fair to say?

Yeah, and I take my chances. This has nothing to do with you, and I want to make sure that you don’t get in trouble for what I’m gonna say, but you know, Jenna Fryer’s a very strong-willed lady, and I recognize that and I’ve known that for years. But she got roughed up (in written form) by one of the world’s greatest race car drivers, Mario Andretti, and it almost appalled me. You know, Mario went at her (about a controversial column regarding Fernando Alonso), and then everybody started going at her.

But you know, we put ourselves out there. And I already knew what she was going through, and I said that it’s amazing that sometimes the media will eat their own. And what I mean by that is that we are in a new environment where it’s insane, you know? Either people are too sensitive or they’re too harsh.

Listen, I’ve got a lot of bad things to say, but there’s no way I would have said them because they’re too hurtful. And it goes back to what I said: If you want, I can go right down the line. It’s like the movie where the man goes around the table and literally makes fun of everybody. It’s like, “Oh my God.” So, social (media) is brutal and it’s great and it’s bad.

What advice would you give to younger drivers who are trying to navigate this world? Right now, the sport’s in need of people to show personality like you’ve shown throughout your career. How would you tell them to do that?

I would tell them that I understand they want their privacy and I understand that they’re quiet. Being quiet is not a cool new thing. Me and Ryan Blaney had a conversation about this. Ryan Blaney said that he wanted to send a message that he’s very serious when we know he’s not. He’s funny, and he has a lot of good wit; he’s funny.

And I said, “Why are you walking around the garage area all serious?” He goes, “Well, I want to send a message that I’m serious.” But then you look at Clint Bowyer, who runs second, wins races, and just is as crazy as me, and he can get away with it because he runs good.

I would tell all race car drivers coming up now today: Be yourself. You know, if you’re waiting for an airplane or you’re somewhere eating lunch and you’ve just gotten moments that you’re just bored, get on social (media). I mean, I’m on social (media) all the time because I truly am bored that much. I’m waiting for an airplane, I’m drinking coffee.

So as hyper as I am and as many places as I go — when you travel as much as we do and you do, it could appear we’re busy, but we’re not. We’re not that busy, we’re just traveling. Get on your phone and create entertainment. It makes me laugh.

Well, thank you for joining us.

No, thank you. And I admire you; I really do. You know, I just want to make sure before we’re done that, you know, you took a chance, you quit your job, you got out on your own, and that’s the American dream, and that’s very hard to do. It’s very scary for me to watch you do it, but you’re my hero, and I wish more of us could do that. That’s kind of what America was built on. So good job and keep digging.

Thank you very much, and the feeling is very mutual. Like I said, I wish I could be more like you a lot of times.

You’re good. (Laughs)

This interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!