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.

Social Spotlight with Landon Cassill

The “Social Spotlight” series continues this week with Landon Cassill, who drives the No. 34 car for Front Row Motorsports. This interview is available in both podcast and written form.

How would you describe your social media philosophy?

I’m a child of the internet, as we all are, for the most part. I’m your typical Millennial, I think. I grew up doing school work on the internet, playing video games on the internet. I feel like internet culture is part of my life, so I kind of just live it out that way. It’s kind of an extension of me.

What was the first social media platform you used?

Xanga was my first social media platform.

What was Xanga?

Xanga was a blog site. Me and my friends had Xanga pages and we’d just post daily content, I guess. (Laughs) It’s all pretty similar — everything has kind of moved from one to the other.

Back then, you’d get home from school, log onto the internet on my computer at home — we had dial-up internet for the longest time — and log onto my Xanga account and make an update about something that happened at school. Then I’d check it every couple hours to see if anybody liked it. You could leave comments and things like that, customize your page. It was kind of cool.

You’re on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. But do you operate your own Facebook?

My Facebook is kind of a collaboration. The biggest thing I do on Facebook is Facebook Live. I scroll through my timeline a lot and see what people comment on pages. I don’t use a personal Facebook page, so it’s not in my habit to be logging onto Facebook a lot. But I love Facebook Live, I love that platform. So I do kind of go in spurts where I’ll be on Facebook an awful lot if I’m posting live content.

For Instagram, I don’t feel like I’m the best photographer and it’s not in me to always stop and take pictures. So my Instagram content is kind of intermittent. But the one thing I really like about Instagram right now is Instagram Live. The content disappears, so you catch it live. There’s no rewinding, you don’t get to see the beginning of the video. You’re just watching it live as it happens, and then once the person logs off the live feed, that’s it. It’s gone. As the host, you see how many people watch your video, and that’s pretty much it. I really like Instagram Live, because it’s a cheap and easy way to see what’s going on out there.

Snapchat is cool. Twitter is where I spend most of my time, mainly because I think it’s folded into my daily life. I spend probably 75% of my time on Twitter reading the news and other content, and less than 25% of my time actually engaging.

Going back to the live stuff for a minute — I’ve never used Instagram Live because it disappears. Why do you like it better than Periscope or Facebook Live, which sticks around on your page?

I think it’s kind of a way for me to post unique, personal, native content on Instagram — but then not have to have that airing out for an extended period of time. That’s one purpose that it serves that I like about it. Because even as authentic as Facebook Live is, it’s still a little planned out.

For instance: After the Daytona 500, I did a recap where I stopped at Love’s Travel Stops (his sponsor) and got fuel on the way home from the Daytona 500. Which it was totally natural — there was nothing staged about that; I needed gas for my truck and there was a Love’s Travel Stop off the interstate. Like I was stopping there anyway.

I was like, “Man, I’ve kind of been wanting to do race recaps and talk to my fans, so what better way to do it than on Facebook?” So that was a very authentic post and it was a real thing that happened, but it was also something in the back of your mind, I know that content is going to stay on Facebook and get more views and for people to see it and follow up with that recap.

Where on Instagram, I can just pull my phone out walking out of the garage to the car and have literally no plan whatsoever and have no idea what I’m going to do, but just fire up Instagram Live and see who’s watching.

The other day, I was on Instagram Live and somebody I hadn’t talked to in five years who I went to high school with was like, “Hey, Landon!” And it was like, “Oh my gosh! Tyler, I haven’t seen you in five years! How’s it going, man?” And then it sparked a conversation, made you think of a story, you tell a quick story and then you get to your car and you log off and it’s gone.

It’s really just an authentic experience between you and your viewers and then I think it serves a value to Instagram because a lot of people have notifications turned on, and Instagram sends out a notification that says “Landon Cassill is live.” I think the platforms are thinking people can’t help themselves. They have to see what’s going on. I think it’s like free advertisement for your page. It’s a good way to drive people to your site.

You’re excellent at Snapchat, but it doesn’t seem like you love it as much as you love Twitter. Has your love affair with Snapchat cooled? And how many people do you follow on Snapchat?

I follow just a handful of people on Snapchat. Snapchat isn’t my primary source of news, and I feel like I’m super interested in news. Twitter is just a really good platform for that right now.

I do like watching people’s snaps. Snapchat is really cool because they have some neat technology none of the other platforms have. The facial recognition stuff and even the object recognition stuff that is in their platform, that’s probably what they’re going to be positioning themselves to really pop here in the next couple years. Especially since they’ve gone public, they’re injected with a crapload of money.

I follow NASCAR, Lewis Hamilton, a couple friends of mine, Jordan Anderson, Gary Vee (Vaynerchuk), Kim Kardashian, my sister Echo. And then I have a couple group messages with friends and some friends that send me snaps on a daily basis. I’ll probably be going in and out of Snapchat over the course of the year.

Let’s talk about Twitter, since you use that the most. Is it the first thing you check in the morning? Do you ever worry you’re looking at it too much? Because we hear about the Twitter vacuum.

Yeah, I’m probably stuck in the Twitter vacuum. It’s definitely the first thing I check in the morning. I don’t watch a lot of TV other than Netflix — my wife and I have shows we watch — so I get all of my news, my gossip, pretty much my social information from my Twitter timeline. Everything serious, everything humorous. I follow my favorite weatherman on Twitter. Political stuff. It’s pretty much Twitter for me.

If you have people who are giving you a hard time, do you block them, mute them or ignore them?

I don’t block people. Actually, if somebody is giving me a hard time, I take the time to try and win them over. (Laughs) Honestly, it works every time. I have won over fans that were talking so much crap and I would just engage with them. They just want attention. Now, I don’t get a lot of people hating on me on Twitter. When I do get someone, it’s like, “Oh, I’m going to see what’s crawled up this guy’s butt and just talk to him a little bit” and it always works.

But if you’re like Dale Jr. or Brad Keselowski or some really polarizing figure in the sport, they probably get hundreds of those a day. I wouldn’t be doing that at that point.

I don’t like blocking people. I don’t like silencing people. I don’t think that’s cool. But I do mute people — and that’s just if their timeline is annoying.

So people you follow — you mute them?

I definitely have people I follow that I mute. And that’s just because I don’t really want to unfollow them. I have people I’m friends with that I just don’t like their regular content. But if they tweeted me, I want to see a notification so I can engage in conversation. So I mute them. That’s my solution. But blocking people? I’m not into that. I’m not into silencing people.

What do you think the future of Twitter is? We hear a lot about how Millennials don’t get on Twitter and they go straight to Snapchat. Is Twitter going to go the way of MySpace?

I’m not really sure. People said the same thing about Facebook, but Facebook had the strength of a billion users. Twitter has been up and down and the one thing that’s tough about Twitter are a lot of the bots that are on there.

Yeah, what’s up with the bots?

It’s just weird. You don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know if it’s a problem with Twitter. I feel like Twitter did a good job with one of their recent algorithms. They made an update where verified accounts or accounts with seemingly original content are higher up in the replies list of other verified accounts. So that got rid of a lot of the shit-posting, pretty much. But that still happens an awful lot.

Twitter is a cool thing, and for me, until I find a better place to get my news and a better place to get a constant stream of updates, it’s going to be hard to find another platform. I’ve got almost six or seven years of time invested in this one platform for all the people I follow.

Unlike a lot of drivers, you’ve built relationships and made friends with people through Twitter — fans of yours, people who have cool content. Why were you willing to do that? 

Man, why not? I’m just a regular person, and I like to get to know people and I like to learn from people who have different points of view and have different skills. So I’ve made a lot of friends online in all kinds of industries. In a lot of ways, those networking moves and relationships I’ve built have gotten me a lot of interesting media attention and opportunities on platforms outside of just NASCAR racing. I’ve built a lot of genuine friendships and I’ve learned a lot of cool things from people and I think that’s just natural for me. I don’t put myself on a pedestal or anything. I’m a NASCAR driver, but I’m kind of just like anybody else.

How many people you’ve met through Twitter have your personal cell phone number?

Probably quite a few. I mean, more than you could count on two hands.

So no problems with that?

Not really. I don’t just give it out to anybody. But how is it different letting someone have your cell phone number than letting them in your direct messages? Like, the notification comes through the same way. Shoot, with Snapchat you can call someone. You can video call with someone. You have the same capabilities. To me, it’s all the same thing.

Landon Cassill’s social accounts: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Social Spotlight: Austin Dillon

This is the first edition of a new feature called the “Social Spotlight,” where I’ll spend some time asking people in the NASCAR industry about their social media usage.

First up: Austin Dillon. You can hear the full interview in the podcast at the bottom of this page, but below is a transcript for those who would rather read it (the transcript has been condensed and edited for clarity).

JG: Do you have any private social media accounts?

AD: I’m all public on everything. No private stuff. I used to have a Facebook, but don’t have one anymore (except) for the one RCR runs and I do Facebook Live videos from. But as far as Instagram and Twitter, it’s all me.

JG: Are you on Snapchat?

AD: No. I deleted Snapchat when I got engaged — even before that, when I got a girlfriend. I just didn’t think Snapchat was really for me. Didn’t need it. (Chuckles)

JG: So you associate Snapchat with the old days when it wasn’t as corporate.

AD: Yeah, and it’s kind of repetitive because Instagram has all the same stuff with the stories now. I just like the format of Instagram better than Snapchat. I do think Snapchat is a little less business-ey.

JG: If you could only keep one (form of social media), which would you go with?

AD: Instagram. I think people can really take cool pictures and do cool videos and you’ll see a lot of that out of my Instagram this year. I’ve got a guy I’m working with where we’re pretty much just posting videos of different things we do at the shop, away from the shop and kind of my personal life.

I’m into the video stuff a lot. We posted a pretty cool one the other day with Slugger (Labbe) and the guys coming out and drinking some Coca-Cola by a Grizzly cooler. So the partners we have…they like those videos and it gives them something they can put on their Instagrams.

JG: How much of the posts we see are from you and how many are PR-type posts?

AD: On Instagram and Twitter, they’re pretty much all me. Jackie (Franzil, his PR rep) does a really good job updating people on what’s going on with our Facebook. … I would say 75 percent of my social media is me.

I think the worst part of my Instagram and Twitter is my grammar errors, so I definitely check with my fiancee (Whitney Ward) and Jackie. I think the biggest thing for me is punctuation. I struggle with that.

JG: Do you show them before you tweet? Like, “Hey, honey…”

AD: It’s right on my phone. I just hand it over to (Whitney) and she’ll go over everything. Sometimes I’ll copy and paste and send it to Jackie (and say), “How’s this look?” Now my brother (Ty), he doesn’t spell check anything. So it’s pretty funny to watch him sometimes.

JG: Do you ever say, “Should I tweet this?” if something could be controversial?

AD: I have in the past. I haven’t had to do that much lately, because I pretty much know where I’m at and what I can say. I’m pretty honest if you ask me a question if I want to say something.

If you say something on TV, I think it hurts more than if you do it through your social media account. I’m not gonna say the word I want to say, but it’s a cop-out to do it on social media.

JG: So it’s more brave if you’re not hiding behind the keyboard, so to speak.

AD: Exactly. If you’re going to say something about somebody or to them, you go say it to them or do it (in an) interview. At least they know it a little differently than through a keyboard.

JG: How many times a day are you looking through Instagram?

AD: Quite a bit. I’m on Instagram a lot. I like looking through people’s stories. I’ve got some good buddies who are always doing stuff that I follow. And then Twitter, I like following Trump. He’s pretty entertaining. And (Conor) McGregor on Instagram, he’s not afraid to show the lavish (lifestyle) and I’m sure people think he’s cocky and out there, but I think he’s done a good job with his marketing stuff.

JG: Do you think the Trump Twitter style will make people less afraid to be…

AD: Honest? Yeah, I think so. I like his honesty. There’s human error in everything. What he’s trying to show everybody is you can be yourself and it’s OK. I think that’s why a lot of the people voted for him — they can kind of relate to him a little bit — the screw-ups he has and then the stuff he does right. He’s really morally a good person, I think. But it’s funny to see all the different tweets he lets go. Sometimes they’re not needed, but it’s a different way of doing politics.

JG: Everybody has haters on Twitter. How do you deal with that? I assume you see them, so you do you ignore them? Do you block them?

AD: I personally just block ‘em. If they say something I don’t like, I just block ‘em. I don’t give them a second chance, usually.

I did respond to one kid. He was going off, and I had a lot of people go off on him underneath (the tweet), so I saw the guys who were just roasting this guy. I actually commented back to him and said, “You don’t even know me. Why don’t you come to the (RCR) Museum and I’ll take you around the museum?”

That kind of turned the whole situation around, but I’ve learned if you try to do that with every one of them, it’s too much time. Some people want to take the time to get to know you, but some people just want to screw with you. They might not hate you, but they just want something to do and make fun of. So I kind of laugh at it or just block it, because I don’t want to see it.

I like the new Instagram, too, because you can actually put words that key off that don’t let it come up in your comments.

JG: Oh, I didn’t even know that.

AD: Yeah, it’s a little edit list. My fiancee showed me that. It’s pretty cool. So like if somebody calls me a “short midget rich kid,” I can type “short midget rich kid” in there and it won’t pop up.

JG: No kidding? So I can type, “Jeff Gluck is a loser” and no more comments like that will come up?

AD: No more comments of “Jeff Gluck is a loser.”

JG: That’s awesome! I learned something here.

AD: It’s under Edit somewhere. (Note: To find this feature, go to Settings on Instagram, then look for Comments and type in the keywords you don’t want under “Custom keywords.”)

JG: Do you think your skin has been getting thicker over the years, the more you do this?

AD: It’s been pretty good lately. If they’ve said something bad once, I’ve already (blocked them), so I don’t even know who the haters are anymore. I have people who are close friends of mine and they’re like, “Man, this guy is hating on you!” I’m like, “I don’t even know who you’re talking about.” So it doesn’t bother me at all and I haven’t seen a hate message in a long time. I think I kind of got the group who were after it.

And if a new one comes up, I delete it so quickly that I don’t even look at their name. I just block ‘em. I have Hater Vision on at all times.

JG: What do you think the future is in the garage for social media? I hear a lot of younger people are going away from Twitter. Do you get that sense at all?

AD: I do, but I feel like I get more news off Twitter than anything. I get updated on things quickly, especially with sports and politics. I can be updated really quick. Instagram is more of a personal thing. … I think Instagram is the future for your personal use, but for news, I think Twitter is going to kill it. You just can’t get anything faster than Twitter on news.

JG: Twitter has a mute function. I’ve muted people I follow in the past, because I don’t want to unfollow them and be a jerk, but I also don’t want to see their updates all the time. Have you ever muted anybody you follow?

AD: I just unfollow them. If you’re saying stuff I don’t really agree with, I just unfollow them. I’ve done it multiple times. Even my friends, if it’s someone I know but they’re talking about something I don’t agree with, I’ll just unfollow them.

JG: Have you ever had anyone say, “Hey dude! You unfollowed me?” after you did that?

AD: I might have had like one or two who said that, but I’m just like, “I don’t like what you’re saying.” I’m pretty open and honest with them. It doesn’t bother me, really. If they come back around and they really ask me, “Hey, will you follow me again?” I’d follow them back, probably.

JG: Sometimes drivers tend to get into social media feuds. Is it hard after a race to not vent your anger that way?

AD: (After) probably four or five races last year, I’d get out and want to tweet something or say something — and then type it out and not say it. Maybe I should be more open about it on those things, but I try and keep it to myself.

JG: How quickly after a race is your phone in your hand?

AD: Really quickly. And then mostly I’m checking fantasy football. If I had a bad day on the track and my fantasy football team lost, it’s usually a long ride home.

JG: Anything else you want fans to know about your social media use or your accounts?

AD: If you want to see real, personal stuff, Instagram will tie you closest to me right now at this time in my life. So follow me on Instagram if you want to see stuff behind the scenes at my house, hanging with my friends and that kind of personal stuff.

Dillon’s social accounts can be found at @AustinDillon3 for both Twitter and Instagram.