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!

Social Spotlight with Mike Joy

This is the latest in a series of interviews where I ask people in the racing industry about their social media usage. The interviews are also available in podcast form. This week: Mike Joy, the longtime NASCAR broadcaster from FOX Sports. Joy is on Twitter at @mikejoy500.

First of all, I see you a lot on Twitter. Are there any other platforms that you are active on?

I’m on Facebook, but it’s mainly as a member of groups: One for the road race car — the BMW my son races — two for vintage MGs and there’s even a group on there for cars that I used to race back in the 70s in IMSA. So, it’s mainly for the group aspects why I’m on Facebook.

FOX introduced us to Twitter. When Twitter was fairly new, they thought that it would be a good idea for us to have an online presence, and when we saw that a lot of the teams and drivers and crew people and families were on there too — and especially when we found at Daytona that we could sometimes get quicker updates of things that were happening by looking at Twitter than by chasing PR people around the pits — that really became a great platform for all the FOX people.

I’ve done a couple of things on Reddit, but just from time to time, and (those) things are scheduled, so I don’t have a regular presence on there. I have a family, so you have to spend some time offline. (Smiles)

But yeah, every once in a while, if I’m at a hotel or an airport or in the evening, I’ll just pop up on (Twitter) and say, “All right, who’s got questions? Who’s looking for a little more information or, more likely, explanation?” Because it’s hard to get into detail on the telecast — we’re always moving from one story to another, from one car to another, and there’s a lot of things about this sport that we know are difficult to understand in 30 seconds of explanation, so if people have questions, it’s fun to try and help.

Some of the angry people online, they’re yelling at the coverage, they’re yelling about that, they’re taking it on you. And instead of saying to yourself, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I’m not even going to give this the time of day,” you explain a lot of what’s going on. Why do you choose to do that?

I think if people are better educated about why things happen in sports television, they’ll be more tolerant when things don’t always happen the way they want them to. So if you explain to people, then they can make an informed decision whether they’re really upset about it or not. And a lot of times it won’t change their opinion, but at least they’ll know why we didn’t interview their driver after a race, or why we only had one or two replays of an incident, or why we keep showing one in-car camera and maybe you don’t see as much coverage of another.

All these things happen for a reason — decisions are made often at a very rapid pace down in that TV truck, and hopefully we come out of it with a really good telecast.

I went home from Martinsville and watched the FOX telecast, and it wasn’t the same race that I saw, because I get to see the monitors and the racetrack. And there are so many battles — especially on a short track — there are so many skirmishes and so many things that you just can’t have a camera everywhere all the time.

But we really do the best we can to do a telecast that’s fair, first of all, and tells the story of the race and shows people as much of the different competition as possible. That’s our goal, and certainly some weeks we’re a little better at it than others, but that’s always the effort. We’ve got the best people in sports television working on these shows to try and do a great job for the fans at home if they can’t be at the racetrack.

When you’re answering somebody’s questions on Twitter, do you ever have to go find the answer or ask somebody else on the crew? Or is this stuff your personal knowledge of everything that happened?

It’s pretty much my take on what happened and my opinion because it’s my Twitter account — it’s not FOX’s account. So it’s my take on what happened, or why it happened, and trying to make it make sense.

Every once in awhile, somebody will tweet something at me that I just feel is totally outrageous, totally off the wall and just totally not right. So I’ll just retweet it and put, “Really?” And we have enough fans and we have enough people that look at the telecast in a positive light that oftentimes, they will just light these people up. You know, “Why are you picking on FOX? Why are you picking on Mike? What’s the matter?” (It’s) to try and show them that their opinion’s not widely shared. So it’s kind of fun to see that happen from time to time.

But I think if our fans better understand what we’re doing and why, they’ll enjoy the telecast better and they’ll watch more. That’s the hope.

What does somebody have to do to get blocked by Mike Joy?

Gosh, I’m not sure I’ve ever blocked anybody. I can think of a couple people that I probably should have. But all I ask is that the fans just be respectful. Usually, I’ll get a reaction like, “Oh, I didn’t know you actually replied to tweets. Oh my gosh, I didn’t really mean that.” And you know, sometimes not. Some people are really adamant about their point of view and that’s fine — that’s their point of view. I guess it only gets me upset when they either try and put forth their point of view as fact without knowing the facts or if they start picking on people directly. That doesn’t go.

Do you use Twitter to help your job when you’re on the air? Or is there too much going on that you can’t really incorporate it?

There was a time about a year ago when we glanced at Twitter during a show, especially during a practice show, looking for scraps of news out of the garage or things that were going on to help lead the telecast in a different direction or a more interesting direction. For a time we were doing it during the race as well. Now, Andy Jeffers, who’s our stage manager, he monitors Twitter during the race and he follows the teams, the PR people, the wives, everybody, the drivers and gets us some interesting comments. There’s some of it we repeat on air, some of which they actually pop the tweet up on air, that kind of thing. So Twitter does become a part of the telecast in that way.

But we’ve got so many different things going on that some day I’d like you to just come and sit in and see what that’s all about to gain a better understanding of it for your readers. But there’s enough going on that no, I’m not checking my Twitter feed during the telecast. No time for that.

I know you have a lot of people helping you, and you rely on them to feed you information. But you may not know everything that’s going on. So some information might not get relayed to you.

Well that’s true, but that’s why we have talented pit reporters and their spotters down on the ground chasing those stories. If Andy sees something or if Darrell checks his Twitter and finds something during a commercial, we’ll look at it; if necessary, we’ll talk about it, we’ll get it up there. But hopefully we don’t miss major stories.

Quite frankly, Twitter has become the place where a lot of stories break now. Twitter has really become the place for leaks and squeaks. A lot of stories come there first and then get explored from there.

When Twitter wasn’t around 10 years ago, compared to now, how has that changed what you do as a broadcaster?

Oh my goodness. Our job was incredibly harder (before) because we’d have to spend a lot more time in the garage, in the media center, running back and forth — and at that time TV, radio, and pit reporters, we’d all run together. We’d all run around and I’d bump into you, “Hey, what do you got, what’s going on, who have you talked to?” I’d tell you, you’d tell me, we’d go in the media center, talk with somebody else.

And now everybody rushes to Twitter with the first hint of a story. So in the morning, that’s the last thing I check before I leave the hotel and I’ll have a look at it when I first get to the racetrack to see what’s going on, see what the stories are. So it’s made the job a lot easier.

On the other hand, it means I don’t spend as much time with other reporters and other broadcasters and writers running around because the information flow is so much easier for us now than it was then.

I suppose in some ways, the fans can see everything just like we can. So TV can be two minutes behind Twitter and fans are like, “Yeah, we already know that.” Do you know what I mean?

Yes, but as a medium, it’s completely different. The job of the telecast is to tell the story and give the news of what happened during that practice session, that qualifying session, that race and put it together in a way that informs, educates and entertains.

Twitter strips a lot of that away just to the bare essence of 140 characters and a lot of times, it’s the drivers directly or the crew chiefs or the car owners directly who are on there with their comments, and that’s just pure and unvarnished. I think that’s where professional athletes, not just in racing, have really embraced Twitter because it’s them getting their thoughts out there, and they’re not subject to interpretation by a PR person or a writer or a broadcaster before they get to the fan.

Where do you think this is all going next? Obviously the NASCAR industry is pretty heavily on Twitter at this point — pretty much everybody’s looking at it. What’s the next evolution of this?

I think the best way to look at Twitter is to look at Dale Jr. — Dale Jr. had a Twitter account, never made a tweet and had half a million followers. Then he finally gets on Twitter and he starts having fun with it and now he’s selling JeffGluck.com hats on Twitter that don’t exist!

So we’re having a great time. I think that the ability of Twitter for the athlete or celebrity to connect directly to the fans with a certain amount of direct connection both ways from the fan’s tweets and the athlete’s tweets, but still maintaining distance between the athlete and the fan, is a great model. I think it works really, really well.

The next step would be having that athlete’s cell number or email address, and that probably gets just a little too direct for people to deal with — especially people who have half a million followers. So I think we’re in a really good place. The athletes, the entertainers, the celebrities, they can share, they can read the comments back, they can emote, they can have a very direct connection with their closest fans and everybody enjoys it. Everybody wins.

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 Jimmie Johnson

Each week, I ask a member of the NASCAR industry to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who won Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jimmie, you are quite proficient at a number of social platforms. What is your favorite one to use?

I’m torn, but I would head towards Instagram. I’m a huge fan of photography and imagery and when it first started off, it was kind of a not-so-popular space (and had) great creativity. It certainly has morphed into something more mass; I’ve seen enough of everyone’s dinners and stuff like that to drive me crazy. But Instagram is probably my favorite.

It’s closely followed up by Strava (a workout tracker where followers can like and comment on runs or bike rides). I enjoy my physical activities and it’s amazing how knowing you’re going to post to that app and site, how it will motivate you to run faster, pedal harder, ride longer. You think of interesting names for your rides. Looking for a photo (to put with the workout). It’s a very fun way for me to stay motivated and stay connected with other athletes around the country.

That was actually one of my questions, if you considered Strava a social media network. I feel like it is, but it’s not one that people mention off the top of their heads. But you are sharing in the same way you’re sharing anything else you do.

Yeah, you really do. The numbers are much smaller on that platform. But from meeting other athletes and setting up rides or training sessions with others around the country, it’s really cool.

And then if you go on your laptop, you can designate any stretch of road as a segment and name it yourself if you want. So as you ride or run across through these areas, your device takes the time to rank you and tell you how fast you were this year and all time. If you come through the segment again, it starts to rank you against yourself.

So the way my mind works and living by the stopwatch with everything I do in my life, it’s really nice to see the progression of your rides and your fitness. And if you’re in a big group on the bike and you guys are drafting or being smart, you can post and put up big numbers, which is fun.

What’s amazing about that is it’s probably the most positive social media network because there’s nobody trolling on there. Everybody’s giving encouragement to others and it’s motivating you to do better because there’s a peer pressure factor. Even when I’m out there, I’m like, “Oh man, this is a slow mile time or a slow ride and people are going to look at my time, so I gotta go faster.” Do you know what I mean?

I totally know that aspect and it’s highly motivating from that standpoint.

But you bring up such a great point: Out of all the social platforms, I don’t think I’ve seen a negative comment or any trolling. It’s all positive. When you like somebody’s ride, you give them a little thumbs up. The comments are all very constructive and positive — so you’re right, I haven’t thought of it as being the only positive social space out there.

Let’s go back to Instagram for a minute because it’s clear you have a love for photography. Do you have photographers that work for you and then you pick the best picture of the weekend? Or are they all of your photos? How do you decide what to put on your feed?

It kind of changes from week to week. There are a lot of photos provided to the race teams over the course of the weekend that I have access to and I kind of pick some cool shots just to use. Of course, I take my own photos and do some (Instagram) Story stuff.

But over the years, I have brought in some professional photographers. In Homestead last year, I brought in Liz Kreutz to shoot and document the weekend, largely because I love photography so much. Someday I want a big book full of all the images that I can relive, and she came and shot that and took like 10,000 pictures. And then we took a few and used them on our social channels just to share the experience with others and let people see a race weekend through a different viewpoint.

This year, I started a program at Daytona where I’m going to bring in four different professional photographers and then have those four professional photographers pick four amateurs to come and shoot. So, we’ll have at least eight opportunities for me to collect imagery. Then, we’ll use them through our social platforms. Lyle Owerko was our photographer at Daytona, and then the famous Danny Clinch who’s done all the Rolling Stone shoots for years and years will come and shoot Indianapolis for us.

So it’s fun to see what they shoot and what they bring in their style. We’ll share all that stuff through the social, but then someday down the road, if we decide to do a book or an exhibition, I’m gonna have a ton of photos over the next four to five years, just collecting all that stuff.

How do you decide how much to share with the public? When these photographers first come, it seems like they have all-access. Is there anything where you’re like, “Hey, not this part?”

Yeah, I work hard to get them into anything and everything and I also firmly believe that they are the photographers they are, and I don’t want to mess with that style. I don’t want to push them into a corner and only post this and only show this; I try to turn them loose.

With Lyle Owerko, he did a lot of time lapsing, and we posted that on the social channels. I didn’t even know time lapse was on my phone and how to use it and that it would be cool, and he did that pretty frequently.

As things are developing with Danny, his style is much more creating a scene and a set to take a picture. Obviously, that’s pretty tough to do on a race weekend with how quick we’re moving, but I want to give him that opportunity to put a couple of sets together and grab his traditional shots. So I really let the style of the photographer steer where we go.

I follow you on Snapchat, and every once in awhile a stray snap will come out. It’ll be like one snap and then it’ll go a few days where there’s no more snaps. Do you think to yourself, “OK, you know what, I’m gonna snap today,” and you have good intentions but you just go focus on that other platform?

For sure. What’s tough for me with Snap is that my phone comes out often, and I take pictures in the platforms where I can go back at the end of the day or I have a free moment to think of a caption, work on the photo and edit it. That just works better for me, especially with chasing two little ones around and how busy my life is. So it’s hard for me to think, “Oh yeah, Snap.” That’s its own photo and you go from there. I dig Snap — I think it’s fun. It’s just not in my first line of thought.

So you have somewhat of a social team, where people can help you with your social media. Why is it important to have people help you? What do the partners say to you about social media that makes that an important space for you?

In my office we’d been looking for something that we could own, especially as I developed to be a multi-time champion. I was just looking for a space to really dominate and make a presence. As social media was coming along, we’re knocking off our championships, and we could see that everything was switching to digital. Even websites and what information those websites provide … was changing.

So I hired a firm in New York to work with me and help get my social stuff going. I quickly realized we didn’t need a firm. It was helpful, but it just wasn’t me. Through relationships in New York, I was able to really focus in and lay out a plan on what we wanted to do, and we did a deep dive into our sport and what platforms our consumers used and what was important then.

Way back then — like eight to 10 years ago now — out of all the NASCAR fans, only about 15 percent of the fans had a smart phone. That led us in a direction to bolster our website (as the top priority). So we really doubled down on our website, won best website in all of sports which was a huge honor for us. It was very creative and very cool the way interaction worked between our social channels.

And then I just knew that as requests were coming in for sponsors and they saw our investment in digital and everything shifting to digital, we needed somebody to manage that stuff and really work with the sponsors and make sure things were authentic on my side and then also serve the greater good of racing.

We hired somebody from Sprint — Lauren Murray, now Lauren Edwards — she came in and worked on our program for a lot of years. And she’s done so well, she’s now started her own firm (Reine Digital) and was married recently to Jon Edwards, who’s been Jeff Gordon’s longtime PR man. I’m her first client at her new place and I’m trying to help her build up her social team and her clients. She’s done an amazing job for us and I know that she can help some other drivers here in the garage area and other people outside.

Let’s talk about Twitter, the big one that everybody seems to be focused on in this garage at times. How often are you looking at your feed on Twitter? Do you visit it daily?

I do visit it daily, multiple times a day. For me, I use it for my news feed. I’m always on the run, and the magazines I follow, the news outlets I follow — of course there’s the work side in our industry — but that’s how I consume the world news today.

I don’t go on to my mentions as often. I mean, sometimes you want to see it, some times you don’t. If I post something, it’s nice to see what people think or what the reaction is. But from a consumption standpoint, I do spend a fair amount of time just looking through the feed and taking in the news.

I feel like you’re one of the notable people who’s not afraid to go back at somebody if they’re a hater. If they say something to you, you’re not afraid to retweet them and poke a little fun back at them. Do you ever block people? What’s your general response to the trolls?

I haven’t blocked a single person yet on any platform. Believe me, I’ve wanted to. When the digital stuff first started — back when there were blogs on NASCAR.com — I went through them and read the Jimmie Johnson blog. I couldn’t believe the things that people were staying about myself, and also what they were saying about my wife when we were dating. It’s why I had a quick departure and was pretty late the Twitter game to start with. I was like, “I don’t need that in my life.”

But then I realized the importance of it, so you just need to breeze by certain things and move on. But poking fun back at these guys is, I think, critical. You know, people sitting in their underwear in their mom’s basement, they’re pretty brave and want to say things. It’s funny — as soon as you draw attention to them and let some hating happen on their feed, they’re quickly apologizing, they delete the tweet and hopefully they don’t do it to anyone else again.

It is interesting how when you go back at somebody, they’ll come back and say, “Actually, Jimmie, I’m a big fan and I respect you.” And you’re like, “What?”

Totally. I’ve had that, I’ve had the tweet deleted and then people tell me how rude I was to bring this upon them and get everybody else hating on them. I’m like, “Oh no, you started this whole thing. Be a little smarter before you hit send.”

Do you ever almost tweet something and then decide not to tweet it?

Yeah, I think we’ve all had one ready to send out and we put down the phone and come back a few minutes later like, “I probably shouldn’t.” So yeah, I’ve been there quite a few times.

Where do you see social media going next? There a lot of people doing live video, there’s Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, you can do Periscoping. Where do you see this evolving for you?

It seems like the unique experience on each platform is kind of gone and now all the big platforms are like, “OK, that’s kind of cool there, I’m gonna bring that into mine.” Having a presence on all (the platforms) is hard and trying to keep a consistent schedule of posts going on all those sites is important because there are people who only use certain platforms because it fits their lifestyle better.

But what’s interesting to me is looking at our sport and looking at sports in general. I read an article (last week) in the Wall Street Journal where (Amazon) has purchased the right to stream the Thursday Night Football games. On the surface it looks like a standard play — but long term, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, they’ll know your shopping habits and your buying habits and they can send strategic marketing to you while you’re watching on their platform.

So understanding how that stuff works and how it might work in our industry (is valuable). Nobody’s watching TV; it doesn’t matter if it’s sports or what, the numbers are just going down. TV ad buys have supported our lives, my life and racing. And we’re trying to convince sponsors every day that it’s all moving digital: “Here’s our numbers, here’s our presence.” You’re just trying to understand that, which I don’t think anybody does.

(Social media) has been very good for me on a social standpoint and being able to let others see my personal side and what I’m about and what my interests are, because I don’t give the best interviews at the track — I’m more focused on the job. But from a business standpoint, there’s a big business in that and I think we need to be wise in our industry to jump on that so sponsors understand that.

This week’s Social Spotlight interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you plan to attend the upcoming Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link to make your purchase. Thanks!

Social Spotlight with Samantha Busch

Each week, I ask a different member of the NASCAR community about their social media usage. This week: Samantha Busch — the wife of Kyle Busch and the owner of Murph Boutique.

You have incredible restraint on social media. You must get a lot of hateful tweets, but yet I’ve never seen you lose your cool. What’s your secret?

Well, usually I type it all out just to get it out there and vent, and then I delete it. But I just figure they’re looking for that negative reaction, that’s why they’re sending the mean tweets, so if you just ignore them, they’ll go away.

You’ve been on Twitter for a long time now. Over the years have you had any incident where you did lose your cool and then you regretted it later?

Wait, do you actually remember how we started Twitter?

No, how did it start?

I started Twitter because you were telling me about it and then I got engaged (in Feb. 2010). And then you came to interview me that day, and that’s how it got started.

That’s right. I forgot that you weren’t on it until you got engaged.

You were like, “You need to be on Twitter,” and then I learned about it and you did the interview and that’s how it started.

At the time you got engaged, you had no way of  telling everybody. You had nothing to tweet, no picture of your ring or anything. Now you can just do that yourself, of course.

Yeah now it’s like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Instagram stories, Snapchat — there’s so much, it kind of stresses me out. But with the haters, I really do just try to ignore them. There’s sometimes when they’ll say things about Kyle or Brexton where I really just want to go off, but I just gotta focus on the 100 positives, not the one negative.

That’s a really hard thing to do. Sometimes, I’ll lose my cool on my own social media. I just don’t know how you have so much restraint. Even with the media, I feel like you have restraint — like when Kyle is criticized by me or anyone else in the media, you don’t say anything.

Well, I just look at it as that everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and a lot of times I just try to think that people aren’t picking on my Kyle — they’re picking on the driver, the persona of that or what happened in the race — so I try to separate the two and not let it get to me.

I think I just focus on Kyle and Brexton and all the crazy stuff that we already have going on and try and ignore (the critics). I try to really focus on the people that are positive and supportive and uplifting to us, because if they’re going to take the time to tweet or do something nice, I’d rather use my energy to respond back to them and build those relationships than focus on the people that just really want you to react.

At this point you’ve sort of built a social media empire. You really have all the bases covered on all the different platforms. Which is your favorite one to be on?

I like Instagram a lot. I like it because you can do videos, you can do pictures, you can do Instagram stories, and I like really good quality photographs and I feel like you can really get that on Instagram. I actually just, well, thanks to people responding on Twitter, got the big phone, you know the iPhone…

The 7 Plus? That’s what I have. I like it.

Yes, the 7 Plus, and I love it. So it’s got great pictures and I feel like it’s upped the quality of my social media by being able to take good pictures with it.

So when it comes to putting out your content, do you have to choose between platforms? Do you say, “This is more of a Snapchat thing, this is more of an Instagram thing?”

So especially for my store I try to put it across all three in case people like one thing more than another. But yeah, when it comes to personal stuff and my own stuff, I look at timing — that’s a big thing, days and hours and what gets the best response — and how I word things.

Obviously, I think Instagram and Snapchat are a little bit younger, and Facebook is a little bit older. So just try to tailor my message to my audience. Yes, it’s a lot of work with hashtags and everything else, so it takes a lot of time.

Basically what I try to do is get most of my stuff done and then at night when Kyle and Brex are asleep, I’ll just spend two hours — I’m such a night owl — I’ll be up until 1 in the morning getting everything laid out and ready and filtered and edited and posted and then I just save it in drafts and go from there.

So on your Murph Boutique stuff, the boutique you now own, you’re doing most of the social media for that yourself?

I’m doing all the social media for that because I’m really OCD about how things look, and when you’re an online store, your social media and your website — that’s your entire image. Obviously, I have a guy who builds websites and keeps that up — I know nothing about things like that — but when it comes to social media and the pictures we post and the photo shoots and all that, I’m all in.

What are some of the differences in the Murph Boutique voice and your personal account voice?

So with the boutique platform, that’s obviously about selling things because you’re a store, so those things are specifically tailored to focusing on the clothes and showing them different ways you can wear them and different styles and how to mix and match things and how to make the most of your wardrobe.

My personal platform is about showing a different side of us. It’s about showing myself as a wife and a mom and a friend and our foundation, and so that’s a little bit different in how you tell your story and how you present your photos. So yeah, there’s a lot of thought that goes into it, into building a social platform.

I feel like if there’s a Kyle Busch fan out there, they are sort of looking to you as sort of like the “in” for the community. You interact with a lot of people, whereas Kyle is obviously focused on racing. He’s not really going back and forth with people. So do you sort of view yourself as like the leader or the mayor of the 18 community, in some ways?

I love it, I think that’s a good way to think about it. Yeah, I just want people to see the side of Kyle that I get to see, the kind of fun, the loving, the caring, the daddy side. I think people see him for a split second whether it’s during the anthem or after the race with an interview and that’s not exactly who he really is. That’s him in race mode and that’s his job, but what I like to show is the softer side. You know, him teaching Brex how to drive or them playing at the park and things like that that people might not get to see. Obviously, I like social media a whole lot more than he does so I think it’s nice to be able to give fans that access.

How do you decide how much of your lives to show to the public?

We’re pretty open, there’s not much that we don’t put out there. I mean, I think we’ve seen a lot of good come from it. My biggest struggle was if we were going to talk about IVF, because that was something that was really hard. We prayed about it, we talked about it, and I think it’s the greatest thing we’ve ever shared because of the Bundle of Joy Fund. We had 10 babies through it, with three more on the way. We’re going to do another big grant. If we weren’t open and accessible, that would have never started.

When we first released that blog, we probably got thousands of emails and then obviously they tapered off, but I still get at least five to 10 emails a week with people asking questions or saying, “Hey, thanks, we’re going through that, now we’re not as nervous,” or, “Hey, it’s cool that somebody else went through that.” I feel that when you put things out there, it kind of helps people sometimes.

You have a blog and especially when you were going through that, you got extremely personal and detailed, maybe to the level that I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of public figures share. You really opened yourself up and now it seems like you’re responsible for 10 lives that have been created. That has to be one of the most incredible feelings.

It’s wild. Obviously Kyle and I couldn’t have done it without the support of his fans, because they donate and they’re behind it and the NASCAR community is behind it too, which is awesome, and it’s just amazing. It’s wild when you get to see these couples again and meet their babies. They’re like, “Hey, thanks for the funds because now, look!” Wow, that’s just kind of mind-blowing and really isn’t something I can put into words. Just to hold someone else’s baby because of your fund? It’s just crazy.

What was the feeling like before you pressed send on those tweets and everything you put out with the blog post link in it?

That was big. I remember Kyle and I was sitting on the couch and it was in December and I literally had to talk myself into it. I was like, “OK, I’m going to post it at 5 o’clock. OK, 6. OK, 7.” And I just kept backing up and Kyle was like, “Just do it.”

And I put it out there and then we went and watched a movie — because I was afraid to see what would happen. And it took a little bit of time, but I think you actually retweeted it. Then it kind of grew some legs and people started reading it and then within a week, I had fertility clinics calling from all over the state saying, “Hey, can share this with our patients?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course.” So I think it did a lot of good.

Do you feel like what you are putting out on social media in general works for you because this is your natural personality? Because we’re talking about strategy and things like that, but it seems like this is sort of who you are.

Yeah, you sort of have to be authentic or else people can see right through it. I’m that person at the grocery store that’s probably like TMI — if someone’s in an aisle getting (medicine), I’m like, “I had that before. This is what I did.” And that’s kind of who I am. I think that’s very much how I grew up. With a big extended family, everybody knew everybody’s business and we were just very open. And so I think that comes across on social media.

Honestly, yeah, there were some people who were negative about it, but you know what, as long as you believe in it and you feel like it’s doing good, I just say go for it.

And that’s one thing, too: When I have young girls that may be asking questions about how do you handle this or that, I think if you could go back, you’d tell your high school or college self that it doesn’t really matter. In the grand scheme of things, you feel like it’s the end of the world right now, but not letting it get you down and focusing on stuff that’s more important, that’s the kind of message I try to tell them.

You show Brexton a lot as part of your daily life. Does he seem to be aware of the camera? Sometimes with my nephew, as soon as I turn on Snapchat or I’m trying to get a cool video of him, I can’t get it. He’s too aware of it.

Yes, that’s how Brexton’s getting now. The other day we were up in his playroom and he is fascinated by how Lucy, our dog, drinks out of a bowl, so he will take things from his sippy cup and pour it into other things and try to lick it like Lucy does. And I’m trying to video it and the second he sees me bring out the camera he stops. He’s like, “Mom, no way. No way.” I’m like, “Come on, be a baby again where you don’t know what I’m doing.”

Oh my gosh, his first year pictures were disastrous. I had this whole setup — I went on Etsy, I had it all planned out, I got a photographer — and he would not take one single photo without screaming. And so finally, after an hour, Kyle and I were like, “Forget it, we’re just not doing them.” He had cake and stuff on his diaper, so I took off his diaper that was covered in cake, let him run free and we got the best shot. He started peeing on his car, and it’s my favorite shot to date. I guess when you don’t force him to do stuff, that’s how it’s more natural.

You end up posting a lot of pictures on your accounts where you’re in them, so you’re obviously not taking them. How in the world do you have somebody that is taking these great shots? Do you have a system where you hand people the camera and they know what to do and they’re getting these great shots?

It’s a lot of people. I’m that girl that’s like, “Hey, sorry to bother you, but can you take a picture for us?” So I’m always that person. Our PR guy does it a lot for us. Sometimes our assistant comes to the track and she’ll do it. My mom will do it a lot. I’m telling you what, my mom is a pro on the camera right now. Last Easter, I started teaching her Snapchat and photos for Instagram, because you can’t get too close because it turns into squares. She was all confused. Now she’s like, “Hang on, the lighting, move this way, do that.” So it’s really just whoever is around.

You post your workouts a lot, and you seem to want to be encouraging to people in a motivational way. On one hand you have a business where you’re selling to people, you want them to buy clothes. On the other hand you’re trying to encourage people in a lifestyle manner. So, how are those different from each other? Or can you use the same strategy essentially?

I think in both areas, my biggest goal is to make people feel good and comfortable about themselves. I think there’s so much of the world that’s so ready to put you down — “You don’t look the right way” and “You don’t dress the right way” and this and that — and everybody is ready to be so negative.

So I think with my blog and store, my whole thing was to make women feel good about themselves and to raise them up. One thing on my blogs (that’s evident) is that I’m not a really great cook, so if it’s not starting in a can or a box or something that’s ready, I’m not gonna make it. And you know what? That’s OK, because we’re busy and a lot of moms are busy, and so I guess kind of my message is, “That’s OK.” Do whatever you can do and the best that you can do, and if you give it your all, then good for you.

When I post a workout, I always tell people if you can’t do three sets — if you can only do one — hey, you tried, right? And you’re gonna keep getting better at it, so keep practicing and keep doing it. That’s the motto I go with for everything.

What else should people know about your social media philosophy in general, as far as what you’re trying to put out there?

I guess one thing is I wouldn’t really go onto Instagram, say on another fashion blog or something, and be like, “That outfit is hideous” like people will do on mine. I’m like, “Why?” Obviously, if she’s wearing it, she likes it.

So people comment on yours and say, “That’s ugly?”

Yeah, the other day Kyle and I were in L.A. and granted, Kyle hated the jeans I had on, too. I thought that they were cool — they had patches and they were baggy; they’re very L.A., you know? Kyle was like, “Hmm, those are interesting.” Whatever. But you know, people are like, “Oh my God, you look terrible in that, it looks horrible,” or, “Did you really think those were cute?” And I’m like, “Well, if I purchased them and put them on and took a photo, yes I like them.”

So I just try to go on other people’s social sites and be uplifting and say, “Hey, that’s cute,” or, “Good work.” A big thing I try to do is when people comment on my stuff — and I need to get better about it — I try to go back and respond to them by saying, “Thanks for the great comment,” or answer a question. So it’s one thing I’m trying to get better about. But you know how it is — it’s about time and trying to balance 900 things at once.

One of the hardest things to do is to keep up the interaction with people. They expect it, but then you fall behind and then you feel sort of—

Guilty. Yeah, I feel bad because people take the time to follow me and comment. I want to take the time to go back and say, “Hey, thanks. Thanks for the message, thanks for checking out my page, thanks for checking out my store,” and so I try to go back and do that.

You know, it’s funny — sometimes during the race, because I got the ear(buds) in and I got the screen in front of me and I’ve got the times and I can see it, and a lot of times I’ll have my phone, and people are always like, “What are you doing on your phone?” We have somebody who comes on the road with us and watches Brex during the race, so I have three uninterrupted hours where I can multitask at things, and so that’s why I’m usually always on my phone.

Social Spotlight: ‘Boris’ from Joe Gibbs Racing

This week’s Social Spotlight interview is with Bryan Cook, director of digital and social media for Joe Gibbs Racing. Cook is affectionately known as “Boris” and is the face of all things JGR social media. I spoke with him Thursday at the JGR shop.

What are you doing with this under-construction space at Joe Gibbs Racing?

We’re building a social media studio that’s going to center a lot around video, because those are the two big things that our partners and our fans are really enjoying.

Social media is one of the top three things we hear from partners. Obviously for fans, it’s a continued way to get them connected to the drivers and our team.

My goal is to make them feel like they’re a part of the team. The more we can do that, the more we can have a space that makes it easy to go live on a Facebook or an Instagram or even a Twitter is important. I think it’ll be important, too, because it’ll give us a chance to shoot more cars, it’ll give us a chance to unveil things, to showcase crew members and to have them here. (It’s) kind of a more comfortable setting to either do an interview or get some insight or talk about their job or talk about a car. I think that’s going to be an exciting part about this.

What exactly is the backstory for people calling you “Boris” when your real name is Bryan?

It started my first week on the job. I got on the team plane to go to Talladega — first time going to the track with JGR. Joey Logano was our driver back then, and he was sitting in the row in front of me. When I started, I had a big curly fro and facial hair and I looked a lot like Boris Said.

Joey turned around — and he hadn’t met me before — and he said, “Hey, has anybody ever told you that you look like Boris Said?” I said, “Yeah, actually.” He said, “That’s your new nickname now.” So he like knighted me.

And it’s been actually pretty awesome, because it’s kind of turned into a pen name. I read this book about how to be successful with people and in business, and they always talked about having an artifact. Like (former Secretary of State) Madeline Albright always wore a lapel pin; just something people remembered. I found out that’s kind of what the nickname has turned into. People remember it, it’s funny, I guess it’s endearing. Boris (Said) is a nice guy; I’ve met him a couple times and we’ve done some funny videos together with some stare-offs. So I have to thank Joey for that one — it kind of helped out.

Boris Said, left, and Bryan “Boris” Cook pose together back in Cook’s fro days. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Cook)

I feel like everybody knows you at JGR. You could walk through anywhere and everybody knows exactly who you are and what you do. And you’re really part of the team. Does that help you with your job and make things easier when you approach people to do things?

Yeah, for sure. It’s vital. I always feel like I’m playing the long game. This is my eighth season with the team and I’ve been on the road every year with the team, going to almost every race. It’s been important for them to be comfortable, and of course, trust is the biggest thing. It’s knowing I’m for them, I’m biased for JGR — for making our driver, our team, our owner look good. It’s unashamed about that.

They want me to be excited when we win and disappointed when we lose. It’s important for them to know they can trust me and I have their best interests at heart. And also that I love the sport and love JGR, and I just want to tell a good story that is interesting to the fans, but also puts us in a good light.

It’s at the point now where I do feel like a driver can see me walking around and ask me to help them knock out a video or ask for an idea for how to do something on their own channels. They’re not technically employees — they’re obviously part of the team — but we want to elevate their channels. It’s been really exciting for me to see that development where you start with social media.

When I started, Twitter was really just becoming important. I wouldn’t even say it was vital to a business yet. It was more hobby level. But it was getting there, and Coach (Gibbs) and Dave Alpern, our president, had the foresight to realize we needed somebody in that position starting to catch the tidal wave that was coming. So it was important to kind of have fun with it then, but then over the long run proving myself and showing I was going to do a good job. Those guys now trust me to help them with their own things. So that’s exciting for me.

Let’s get into your general philosophy. I feel like you try to say to the fans, “You’re part of our team.” Does everything you do stem from that philosophy?

To start with my philosophy, I have to start with my background. I fell in love with racing when I was 12 years old. My uncle got me into it. I have kind of a funny story with it, in that I was kind of born with a natural artistic bend. So I started falling in love with racing because of the color and the speed and the excitement.

I know that world of how it feels to be a kid at a track and enamored by everything that’s going on. I always approach the social strategy from that standpoint, from viewing me as a kid: What would I want to see? What did that feel like?

I’m jealous of fans now, especially younger fans, with social media. I would have killed for the opportunity back then to be able to interact and send a drawing in or interact with a driver or crew member or give feedback and see it used in some way on a team’s social media. I would have loved that. So I always approach it like that. I want the person to feel like they’re part of the team as much as I can, and that involves direct interaction as much as I can.

I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to design street cars, and I wrote a letter to one of the car manufacturers and they wrote me back, and I still remember that. I remember how the embossment on the paper felt. So I just try to always keep that in mind when I approach it. That’s sort of a general thing, but it’s very important to have that approach. Because social media changes daily, it feels like — a new update to an app, a new piece of content, every week is a different story. And so I just always have to have that background in mind.

It’s pretty incredible hearing how you got started in the age before social media really took off. Particularly Snapchat — now if you were out there with the artistic skills you have, you would be a hot commodity just for Snapchat stuff alone. And it turned out you were already in a social media job, then Snapchat comes along and it becomes perfect for you in that way.

Maybe it sounds corny, but I really feel like I’m sort of in the zone, like I was meant to be here, you know? Who would have thought you could merge artistic stuff and NASCAR racing? In college, people laughed at me for that. I didn’t hide that I wanted to go that way in art school — that’s what my degree is in — so you can imagine how that comes across. But I think it’s important to find your niche, and I’m really thankful I have. I have to pinch myself; I kind of get chills talking about it now. Snapchat has been fun, to literally see an outlet for drawing in my world is exciting.

As long as we’re on Snapchat, let’s go there for a second. It seems like you try to tell a story chronologically from start to finish on a race day. Is that correct?

On race days, yeah, definitely. I still debate with myself about how to best do it. How much information is too much information versus fun posts versus documenting? But yeah, I definitely try to do a start to finish and look for storylines within the race. I’m not trying to pressure myself to cover everything. You can’t please everyone, but there’s a lot going on, especially with four (Cup) cars and three in Xfinity. It’s giving insight, it’s giving radio communication, and it’s really quality over quantity.

So on a non-race day, let’s say they come to you and say, “Hey Boris, we’re going to be having a car unveil and we want you to cover it.” So you have all sorts of options, and you only have so many hands. You could put something on Periscope, Facebook Live, Snapchat, even Instagram Live now. How do you decide what to cover it with?

I have a feel for which platform is going to spur the most engagement — which one fans expect certain kinds of content on. Twitter would be more news-related, maybe more breaking news. Facebook and especially Snapchat now are more of the fun, insider story behind things. It also depends on the partner as well; they sometimes have a preference for which outlet — either they have more followers on it or feel like it’s better for their business. So that comes into play, too.

I think right now, Facebook is the behemoth that has the engagement and it’s an easy way to store content as well as unveil it. So that typically is going to be the one we go to. I think (Snapchat and Instagram) stories are great, because they let us tell the stories in quick hits. For a car unveil, it’s typically a live hit, and Facebook right now, there’s no real other place to go for the numbers. The other ones are doing well, and they’re exciting, but if you have to choose one — and oftentimes we do, unless we want to use two phones — I’ll go with Facebook.

I tagged along with you to a paint scheme unveil last year at Fort Bragg, and I saw you use a two-pronged thing with a pair of phones on it — both being charged — and you were Periscoping and Facebook Live-ing at the same time. But you feel like overall, Facebook Live is the better platform for you?

I think so. And Facebook is really hands on. It’s an exciting time, because we have people from Facebook that are working with us — which is the first time in my seven or eight years that’s happened. I have to give kudos to Facebook for showing the initiative to do that. I think if other platforms did that, it might be a little bit of a different story.

It’s not all about numbers in social media — of course, people always want big numbers — but to me, it’s about authentic engagement. And that’s why I’m on Snapchat, too. If you think about Twitter and Facebook, the percentage of engagement from your followers is relatively low. On Snapchat, you could be looking at an 80% engagement. I don’t know our follower count, but say we had 10,000. We’re getting 8,000 highly engaged people to watch all the way through a story. That’s more valuable to me than if we got 20,000 on another platform that aren’t actually engaging.

Facebook Live is great because of the comments and the interaction and the ability to really include people in the space they’re not expecting to be.

I’m always sort of torn on what to shoot. Do I want to video? Do I want to snap? Sometimes I get myself in a situation where I’m like, “Dang it, I missed that. I should have done another platform.” When you’re covering something, do you ever get in a situation where you’re second-guessing yourself that you should have done it differently?

Definitely. I’ve kind of figured out a little bit of a process. I typically shoot first in Snapchat, because I know I can download it on the spot and I can (upload) it somewhere else. But then Snapchat, you can’t reverse that into (the app). So I make sure I have that, because it also gives me a chance to cut down on how much I’m shooting. It has a (10-second) window, and I want to make sure I’m getting the good stuff and the high-quality stuff, so it’s helpful for me in a disciplinary way to focus down on, “OK, what’s going to work here?” And then sometimes I’ll just shoot with a regular camera and I know I can put it up elsewhere.

But (Facebook) Lives a lot of times now have to be planned out — in my world at least — and have to be kind of thought through. You ultimately don’t want to embarrass anyone. Everyone on our team, we have great people here and the drivers are pros off the track in their media and their image. So along those lines of trust, you want to make sure they know you’re going live and they understand what the context is so there’s nothing unexpected — as much as you can control.

What’s the pressure like to be the voice of the company? You get all sorts of people tweeting at you and you’re having to answer them, and they might not be in a pleasant mood. Or you may have to deal with haters. How do you deal with people on a daily basis like that?

It’s funny, because I kind of walk on a line. You want to show personality, because this is a sport; it’s fun. I have fun every time I go to the track. And that’s what people want out of sports, I think. So you want to be fun and biased at a level that shows how much a part of this team I am and how much I care about it. And then you also have the wisdom side and the side about not embarrassing anyone. That’s a fun line to walk.

I’ve figured out ways to do that; experience has helped me do that. There’s always an opportunity to engage in fun back-and-forth banter. That’s just a human thing. It goes back to authenticity — understanding this is really about one-on-one interactions with people that are now seen on a broader level. Everything that comes along with that has to be considered.

There’s been some great times with other teams, specifically, where we can have some fun back-and-forth that’s not over the line. I remember with (Richard Childress Racing), for example, we’d have fun back-and-forth in a competitive way just about a pass on the track and things like that. And I love that, because I think fans want that. I remember growing up, my uncle had one driver and one team. He was a big Earnhardt fan, and there was nobody else he wanted to deal with, and he was going to talk trash about Jeff Gordon — who I liked. And that’s part of our sport, so you don’t want to lose that.

But as far as being a voice, the great part about this company is it’s a family-run deal, and it feels like a small team even though we have a lot of employees here. At this point, I have a pretty good feel for how Coach likes to be represented. That’s always my first thought: I want to represent Coach Gibbs and our drivers and our team as a whole in the right way and the way he would want to be represented — not about my personality, but about what his would be.

So I keep that in mind, and I double-check and re-read everything, and I think, “What would this person think?” and “What would that person think?” It can be exhausting, but the payoff is big, and if things go bad, it could be really bad. There’s a lot of pressure and you make mistakes, but we have a good team here, so I figured it out.

Is it always just you? Do you have helpers or assistants or anything like that? If somebody tweets, is it always you who tweets back?

Not anymore. Within the last year, because of all these platforms we’ve already talked about, it’s almost humanly impossible. So we have one person, Stacie (Fandel), who helps with Twitter and getting things up and getting posts scheduled. And then we have a girl named Amanda (Godwin) and Evan (Wahl) and we have an intern named Sarah (Traylor) that help out. We work on the creative and work together on brainstorms and make videos and all that. They always joke with me that it’s kind of like everybody thinks there’s just one person — Boris. I don’t know if you watch The Walking Dead, but there’s a character Negan, and his whole group all goes by the name Negan. I’m not quite that egotistical — I hope. But they always joke with me about that.

Within the first six or so years, it was a lot of a one-man band — and that was a lot (to handle). But I loved it, and I still do, but it just got to the point where we needed a team. And I have a good one.

How many races do you end up going to per year?

Right now, I’m scheduled to go to all of them.

So you never get off-weekends?

It’s tough to get an off-weekend. This weekend in Martinsville, I’ll get Saturday off. I’m just going Cup day, so that’s good. But they’re good about giving me my Thursday and Friday off, or the two days I need to find here and there, depending on what the race schedule is. The West Coast Swing is always a tough one, as it is for anybody in the industry. But there’s a lot of great stuff there — like we covered the car swapping, which is an insider look that a lot of people don’t see. So it’s worth it, but it’s definitely a whirlwind schedule.

I know you have help now and you do get some off-days, but it’s still such a demanding job and it has to be overwhelming at times. What’s your secret to making it through the season where you can enough time for yourself and be rested?

I don’t do much with my personal social media channels. It gets to the point where I’m creatively spent by the time I’m home and relaxed. So I’m not on my phone as much once I get home, and that’s pretty important for me. You have to be able to turn it off, and I think I can.

In our industry with news breaking all the time, it’s hard. I have the people who are important on my contact list on the special tone when I get an email from them, so I know I’m not going to miss that.

But for me, it’s just getting away from a screen is the most important part. It’s hard, because I really love the sport and so if I wasn’t working in it, I’d still be following it. Becoming a little less emotionally attached to it is the key, I think. And not too far (away), but just to where you’re not draining yourself is important.

The last thing I’d like to ask is about your amazing art and some of the creations you make. Let’s say you’re going to post something on Snapchat — some really cool snap with a drawing on there. How long does that take you to do, and how exactly do you do that?

It varies. I’ve learned to not bite off more than I can chew. I remember for the playoffs a couple years ago, NASCAR had me draw the four finalists in kind of a Snapchat portrait, and that’s the longest one I’ve done. The whole time, I’m just praying Snapchat wouldn’t crash while I’m in the middle of a portrait. That one took at least 40 minutes per drawing — I think one of them took almost an hour. And one of them was Kyle Busch, which I felt the extra pressure of not messing up, because I knew I’d have to see him later. But I haven’t done anything quite like that since.

It’s kind of a daunting task. Right now, I lean toward fun. I don’t try to be a perfectionist on Snapchat. I’ve seen a lot of artists where they’re like chiseled in their drawings. I don’t know how they do it. I’ve decided to start using a stylus. It’s a little easier on the fingers.

I like to enhance the photo I’m taking. If I’m on the shop floor, it’s fun to draw a character down there. Or I’ve been doing these things where I turn our race cars into Cars characters and put the eyeballs on them. So things like that that are simple and I know I can knock out pretty quickly.

In my world, there’s so much content and so many buckets to fill, it’s hard to not be discouraged, because you feel like you could always be putting something up — but it’s not realistic. So when I’m drawing, I just have a good feel for how long something is going to take, so I just try to temper that and keep it in that window.

Bryan “Boris” Cook is the director of digital and social media for Joe Gibbs Racing. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Cook)

Social Spotlight with Bubba Wallace

The third edition of the “Social Spotlight” focuses on the social media usage of Roush Fenway Racing’s Bubba Wallace. We spoke last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

First of all, I have to give you some credit because a few years ago, you told me about this amazing (photo editing app) called Snapseed.

I don’t even use that anymore.

You don’t even use it? What have you moved on to?

They have Lightroom which is a really good photography app you can get on your computer, and is what a lot of professionals use — I think. But they have it for your phone, so I use that now.

Well apparently I have to move onto that. Every time somebody is like, “I really like your Quiet Track picture,” I’m like, “Oh yeah, actually I totally enhanced that using Snapseed,” but I just don’t tell them. Really, I think the trick for photography when you post on social media is you have to make it look nice, but you can’t give it away that it looks too filtered.

Right. Yes. That is true. You’ve got to keep your adjustments and all your secrets kind of in check. First starting out, remember on Instagram you could do all those filters? And then I used three apps and my girlfriend (Amanda) gives me so much crap still — and this was like five years ago — but like the super HDR. It’d be blue sky but I’d turn it black. Oh, it’s bad.

But I’ve come a long way now and cleaned up my pictures. But yeah, I don’t even use Snapseed. There was one called Camera+ and one more that I can’t remember what it was. But good times back in the old app days.

So are you not as into photography these days? I look at your Instagram feed and maybe you don’t have as much time or you’re doing other stuff.

I don’t do it as much and I wish I would. I’m always like, “Ooh, there’s a new camera, let’s go get it.” Which I don’t need a new camera at all. I’ve got really good stuff. But to shoot track photography — which I’d like to start doing again — I need this one lens, but it costs an arm and a leg. So that’s the only bad thing.

I took some stuff of personal vehicles, but nothing like I was doing. I was taking pictures like every day, but I just don’t have time for it now between the race schedule and trying to do stuff at home, being lazy. But yeah, I want to get back into it for sure.

So is Instagram not your favorite platform? What is your favorite social platform to use?

It’s a toss-up between Instagram and Twitter. Instagram, you know, just from the photography side, whether it’s a picture I’ve taken or a picture here at the track that professionals have taken, share it out with the fans. If I post anything with my face in it, my girlfriend will send me a DM or a text of something funny about it — it’s guaranteed. But Twitter, just engaging with the fans or other drivers on there, starting up some funny conversations. Just between those two. There’s not really one that tops it.

Where does Snapchat fit into all that for you?

Snapchat is third to that. Those three are what I use. I get Instagram Stories, so I keep thinking that’s a different app.

When you hear about Millennials, you hear about Snapchat. You go to a concert and you look at people’s phones and it’s all Snapchat. So why do you think for you personally, you’re not 100% Snapchat?

I don’t know. I like Snapchat. The filters on there adds some fun stuff. You look at pictures for 10 seconds or whatever and it goes away. I’ll sometimes scroll through the news part — like the topics or whatever…

The Discover tab.

Discover, yeah. I’ll scroll through those; some things are interesting on there. Some days I’ll be on Snapchat all day, then I’ll go three or four days without doing it. It’s still fun though.

Do you like the Instagram Stories better than Snapchat’s stories?

I’m so used to Snapchat that I keep forgetting about Instagram. And I think I have a lot bigger following on Instagram than Snapchat. But Snapchat is just easy. A little easier to work. You don’t have to swipe over. You just open it up, there’s a selfie of you right there. Snap away. Instagram takes a little bit more work. But I kind of like the drawing stuff on there, the different font types and you can add your location and stuff. It’s pretty cool. I just keep forgetting about it.

That’s the same thing for me. I almost get annoyed when I see people posting Instagram Stories because I’m so used to Snapchat.

Exactly.

I’m like, “Oh, great. Now I’ve got to go through these three people’s (stories) of the ones I follow.” Not everybody does it.

No. Like I follow Lewis Hamilton, Ken Block — I don’t follow them on Snapchat, but I imagine they do it on both. But they are heavy on Instagram (Stories).

That’s interesting, because Lewis Hamilton is super heavy on Snap.

Is he? I don’t follow him on there. But man, he has some cool stuff. It makes me wonder like, “How do you get that effect?” I know they go through some editing stuff.

Actually, seeing how it worked yesterday with (YouTube trick-shot star) Brodie Smith, and he recorded it all, but then they were cutting through sections. Like they cut out a lot of stuff. I’m like, “Huh. That’s interesting. I need to figure out how to do that.”

Like right there, on an app?

So he turned his phone on Airplane Mode, so nothing was going to go through. But he was just recording on the camera roll, and then the NASCAR social team would go through and post it for him, and it was all cut up. They didn’t show like the whole walk up to the Stratosphere. They just showed, “We’re at the bottom, now we’re at the top.” But it was all the same clip. I need to figure out how to do that. It was pretty cool.

Let’s talk a little bit about how you deal with fans — or people who aren’t your fans — on social media. If you have haters, what’s your general strategy? Are you a blocker? Do you mute people? Ignore it?

I ignore it. I don’t know if I’ve blocked anybody on Twitter. I’ve blocked a ton of people on Snapchat, because those are annoying. Just snapchat after snapchat of random stuff.

Yeah, because people are snapping to their freaking friends list. They’re not just posting to their story, they’re sending it to all their friends. You’re like, “Dude! Stop.”

Yeah, exactly. I’ve gotten like conversations like, “Hey, why don’t you talk to me anymore?” I don’t even know who the hell they are. And it’s like, “Oh, you can’t snap me back?” It could be some 10-year-old little boy or whatever. Just freaking around on the damn Snapchat and I’m like, “Sorry, no idea who you are.” And then he’s like, “Oh, hey, I’m — “ BLOCK! So I block that stuff.

But I haven’t had anything crazy on Snapchat, Instagram. Twitter, you’ll get those ignorant comments every once in awhile, but it’s just funny to go back and look at ‘em, laugh, and then think about posting something back but knowing you’ll probably get a phone call if you do. So I just kind of hold off.

So it’s one of those things where your instinct is to reply right away and then you’re like, “Eh, not worth it.”

Yes, yes. You’re going to get that phone call (from Roush Fenway Racing): “We’ve seen your post, that reply to that guy. We get where you’re coming from, but hold off.” (It’s like) “Yeah, OK, Mom.” (Laughs)

Speaking of Mom, do your parents ever say anything about your social media stuff? Because mine do.

No. My dad is on Twitter and at 7 a.m. you’ll see, “Darrell Sr. liked your tweet” or retweeted something. Every day. But my mom, we would be on Facebook back in high school and she’d say, “You can’t be saying ‘Hell’ or ‘Shit’ or something on there.” And I’m like, “BLOCK!” I unfriended her. So we aren’t even (Facebook) friends to this day. I don’t even think she gets on there anymore.

Even still? You haven’t re-friended her on Facebook?

No. I don’t even get on Facebook anymore. I have a tab on my (Internet) Explorer and I’ll click on it and (it’s like), “OK, I’m done.” I’m not on there like I am Twitter and Instagram.

So it’s mostly Roush or people monitoring your feed who are like, “Hey, we’re trying to save you from yourself,” but it’s annoying. That kind of thing?

Yeah, the Fun Police. But that’s part of it. You’re athletes and whatever you want to call us — we’re put on a pedestal, and we’ve got to watch what we say. We can keep it borderline and play on the fence sometimes, but don’t want to push the limits too hard.

How often are you on Twitter? Do you see all of your replies?

Yeah, after a race, I’ll go all the way back until (I think), “Oh, I’ve seen that tweet before.” I’ll read through, especially after a win, I’ll be scrolling for hours. That was three years ago (since he won), so I haven’t done that win scroll (lately). But even if we have a good race, I’ll go through there and read them. You’ll find that one ignorant comment and keep scrolling. But ask my girlfriend how much I’m on my phone. She hates it. I’ll wake up, grab Twitter — I’m hooked on it.

So the like or the heart on Twitter — do you use it to save something, to show you agree with something or do acknowledge something?

Acknowledge. It’s like, “Eh, I don’t really want to reply, but I liked it.”

“I saw that.”

Yes. (Ryan) Blaney is the king of it. Yesterday we did that thing with Brodie Smith and I’m going to retweet anything Brodie posts out. Ryan’s just like, “Like.” I’m like, “Whatever. I’ll get my name out there more.” (Laughs)

You’re trying to do the whole publicity thing, the other guy is trying to get the mutual publicity and Blaney is like, “Nah, I’ll just like it.”

Yeah, that’s it. (Laughs)

After a race when you’re mad, what’s the biggest challenge you face with handling your own social media?

Really, I hate when people to use their social platforms to vent. I probably have — probably a double standard here — but I can’t remember the last time I have. But people who go on their Facebook and post those long posts. “Oh my God, my day was like this today…” Get out of here with that. I don’t go on there and say, “We ran bad today and it’s kind of horrible and I feel like this.” No.

I’m obviously pissed off, but I’ll put in some good music and then go and find something funny on Twitter to kind of relax the mood. I don’t really have any struggles with social media besides actually really wanting to say what I want to say. I’d like to have an uncensored deal and not get in trouble. That’s the hardest part. But everything else is alright.

Your girlfriend has become a big part of your social media. You’re constantly taking spy shots of her or tricking her or shooting a video when she thinks you’re shooting a picture. How often does she get annoyed with you about that?

She doesn’t get annoyed. She’s a good team player. The only thing is she’s private on Instagram, so you won’t ever see me tag her, just because you get those fan girls out there that will go friend-request her.

She’ll ask me sometimes, “Do you know this person?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve seen them like my post like 20 times.” But I won’t ever tag her. I’ll just say, “This is Amanda.” but then people will get nosy, go through my following (and find her). It’s crazy how they try to get in touch with somebody you tag in a photo.

So what do you think the future is? Everybody thought Twitter might go the way of MySpace eventually, but it seems to be sticking around OK. People say Millennials don’t like it, but at least in NASCAR, it seems to be thriving. Do you feel like that’s going to be something that’s around for years or disappear and make us find something else?

I think it’s going to be around for awhile. Ask Amanda, though: She deleted her Twitter because “It’s a dying social media.” Mine’s still ticking, I’m still getting followers every day. It’s just a fun, quick way to interact with fans and that’s what a a lot of fans are going to. Even the old school fans are starting to get on Twitter and have some fun with it. It’s just fun to keep evolving. Who knows what will be next though on the social world.