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Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up this week: Jackson Martin, the Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager for Roush Fenway Racing.
Is it just you or is there a team of people you are a part of with the Roush Fenway social accounts?
We’ve got a couple different people who touch the accounts. It’s primarily me, but also my boss Kevin Woods, who is the Vice President of Communications at Roush Fenway. He’ll do a lot of on-track stuff too.
We’ve gotten a lot better this year about trading off weekends so you can get a little time at home, a little time away. We also have another woman, Amanda Efaw, who pitches in sometimes, too. So I’d say it’s mostly me, but there’s a lot of voices touching the accounts, too.
For some reason, I picture the Roush account as you guys coming up with really fun stuff together, like bouncing stuff of each other and then sharing it out. I just picture it as sort of this fun, collaborative effort because the stuff you come up with is very unique, very creative — and clearly some thought goes into it.
For the most part, yeah. Sometimes it’s a little off the cuff and we can get ourselves into trouble when we do that. But as a whole, the marketing arm of Roush Fenway has done this really cool thing the last couple of years where particularly when performance was not great, not where we wanted it to be, the marketing team basically took the concept of, “We want to also be the marketing agency for our sponsors.”
So most of the time you come in, you pay however much you do to be the paint scheme for the week and that’s what you get. You can make of it what you will, you can pay someone else to do that. And they said, “No, we need to offer something else to our sponsors.” So we really try to be that marketing team for you, and that’s already included in what you’re paying us and we try to make the most out of our sponsorship. So it’s not just on you: We look at what your goals are, but also we try and help you in how we know with the best practices.
And so sort of born out of that, we do do a couple of things a lot like a marketing agency might be and a lot of that involves us sitting around a room together, kicking around ideas. We draw up a whiteboard for every single week of just ideas, things that we can do, things that we can have fun with, wins that we have. Because I think outside of like two (tracks), we have wins at every single track on the NASCAR circuit in Xfinity and Cup.
So really it is. It’s such a collaborative effort between not just us, but also the communication managers, the PR people who are doing stuff for each individual team. In doing that, I think that’s how we get the most creativity, just sitting around kicking ideas back and forth.
It seems like your general philosophy is to have fun with the accounts. What messages are you trying to convey in general and how do you balance that with the competitive side of racing?
I think that’s interesting. They hired me as someone who really had no experience in NASCAR, and Kevin Woods has told me that part of that was getting some fresh eyes on the sport. I definitely brought that — I had no idea what I was doing. And so it just became let’s have fun, let’s give people a reason to follow us. Even if you’re not necessarily a fan of Roush Fenway, we want you to enjoy what we’re doing.
Some of that got born out of what I did when I was at Vanderbilt University. I was the sports editor for the Vanderbilt Hustler newspaper, and our football team was awful. Just so bad. They were 2-10 my freshman year. (The paper) made the mistake of giving me the Twitter account. And so we just go and have fun at games, you know. Maybe we were losing to Alabama by 40 points, but I was going to tell you what the band was playing, what the music was in the stadium — we’re gonna have some fun with what was going on.
And think that sort of fed into my philosophy here, which is that if you’re following us, you’re probably following Jeff Gluck, you’re following Jim Utter, you’re following the other media accounts. You have a pretty good general idea of what’s going on in the race, even if you’re just keeping up with Twitter.
So we need to be different; we need to give people a reason to follow us, a reason to enjoy what we’re doing — and fortunately the leadership at Roush Fenway bought into that. They give us a lot of creative freedom and hopefully I don’t abuse it too much, but it’s worked out great so far.
How do you know where the line is and do you ever cross the line and have to backtrack a little bit?
I’d like to think I have a lot of common sense. We haven’t pushed over the line very often, though there is one specific incident that I remember where I got in trouble with NASCAR corporate.
Two years ago in Michigan in August, they were running the high drag rules package and so they had to seal off the windows of the car in order to get the best aerodynamic advantage. Everyone was talking about it the whole weekend and it was blazingly hot, like 95 (degrees). NBC was running a thermostat in someone’s cockpit that showed that it was 165 degrees in the cockpit of the car.
I was actually at home that weekend — I was doing it from my couch — and I thought that was funny. So I found a picture of the FDA safe cooking temperatures chart. A chicken needs to be cooked to 155 degrees internally. I tweeted that out and said, “By some measures, our drivers are safe to eat right now.” And NASCAR got really upset about that and they wanted us to take it down. Kevin Woods was at the track and said, “We won’t do it again, but it’s got a lot of retweets. Can we just leave it up so it can show up on our social report?” “OK fine, but no more. Don’t talk about the heat anymore.”
That’s a great story. Speaking of fun, one thing especially about your Twitter account is you guys have really creative avatars, and you’re always coming up with the Jack Roush silhouette and doing something different with him. How do those get started? Do you give it to an artist? Who does that stuff?
So the Jack social logo that people have come to recognize was actually made by the guy who had my job before me, Yasin Id-Deen. He’s at the University of Michigan now. He’s a great guy who really, I think, set the table for me in so many ways. It was a fun logo and unlike a lot of corporate logos, you don’t take it too seriously because the social media guy made it.
I think the first one we ever did with that was when we were going to Texas, just sort of noticed, “Hey the Texas silhouette’s really recognizable, let’s stick the Jack head in it and try something new.” And we did, and it got this huge cool response. We didn’t do it for a couple of weeks and then we went to Talladega and Kevin Woods, my boss, is from Oxford, Alabama, so he made one with the Alabama outline. It sort of took off from there and then it became an every week thing.
So it’s either me or Kevin just playing around on Photoshop, finding something fun to do with it. It’s fun with weekends like (last weekend) when it’s a split weekend so we’ve got an ear of corn with the Jack logo for Iowa and then we’ve got the Sonoma road course outline. So you can do fun stuff. You can do state outlines, state flags — the Arizona flag looks great with the Jack logo in it. Or you can do the recognizable, like when we go to New Hampshire, we’ve got the lobster that we can stick it in.
And it’s just sort of a what else can we do creative to connect with these markets that we go to, because we go to 30 different places a year or however many different tracks it is. Let’s try and do something unique for all of them. We’re here all weekend, I’ve got my computer open, it’s a fun way to kill some time sometimes, trying to figure out what you can stick that logo in.
Any idea what Jack thinks of the logo or has he ever commented on it to you guys?
Normally all of our trackside apparel has the normal Roush Fenway logo, but I’ve started getting some stuff ordered with the social logo. I’m wearing a vest right now with it. Jack started laughing the first time he saw it. He said, “That’s pretty good.” So I think he likes it. I don’t know if he’s seen all of the different variations of it, but he definitely likes the original logo.
So you referred to Photoshop and it seems like you guys do tons of stuff whether it’s gifs or Photoshops. What is in your arsenal of tools as the social guy? If somebody wanted to get started on it, what things would they need to learn to get into a position like yours?
I think every team handles that a different way, and I think every person who’s in charge of these accounts handles it a different way. For me, I have always just liked to do as much stuff as I can possibly learn. When I was in high school, I worked on the newspaper, I did the radio show, I did a TV show — I just wanted to do everything. I wanted to learn how to do everything. I kept doing that in college and even here it’s just, “Do we need graphics? Sure, I’ll Photoshop it.” Do I not know how to do a specific thing? I’ll look it up. And so you do Adobe Premiere for video editing, you know, different stuff.
I think the best skill set you could have in this role, because it changes so much, is just the willingness to learn. Because all of this stuff, there’s a million different tutorials online, you can figure out how to do anything you wanna do if you’re willing to put in a little bit of work and a little bit of focus into it. So I think that’s the best thing you can have: Be willing to learn, willing to be flexible, be ready for some people who maybe don’t know how to do what you’re doing to want changes to it. Don’t take offense to that, but learn how to be able to do all of that stuff.
We focused a lot on Twitter, but you guys are active on a variety of platforms, if not all of the platforms that I can think of. How do you balance your time, your priorities, in figuring out what matters the most and where you need to pay attention to?
Like you said, every platform is so different, you have to treat them all differently; you can’t just go in with the same approach and just post the same thing on Facebook as on Twitter as on Instagram, but maybe you have to shorten the caption for Twitter. You just can’t do that.
We derive a lot of the value we get to sponsors. We actually have a social agency, Wasserman Media Group, who works with a lot of professional athletes, professional teams. They sort through all of our social and actually give us an evaluation on what we give back to the sponsors in terms of our posts. That ends up being a couple million dollars a year for a lot of them. Really, this stuff is valuable to them.
A lot of that value comes from Facebook. So for us, Facebook is a much more rigid process than the other ones. Like I said earlier, we do a whiteboard every week. A lot of that is lining up what’s gonna go what day on Facebook. Like this week, we have a bunch of Iowa and Sonoma wins, so it’s, “OK, what day is gonna be the best to post that video of Ricky Stenhouse when he wins at Iowa and Carl Edwards crashes into the back of him?” Because we know that’s our big video this week, that’s one people love to see because of the crazy finish. So that one might be a Thursday night for a Throwback Thursday or something like that.
You sort of flex it in within in but we’re trying to post two to four, two to five times a day on Facebook. But we have a lot of content, and trying to shoehorn in when everything fits where, that takes up a lot of brain space, a lot of planning just to get that right.
So we sort of follow the same type of structure on Twitter of doing Throwback Thursday, Winning Wednesday, but when you get to the track, a lot of your time is going to get eaten up by being at the track and that stuff. But you get to be a little more flexible.
A lot of times, I’ll think of a fun idea, Photoshop it or clip it out on Adobe Premiere, and it’ll just sort of go up whenever I get it done. You can also post stuff multiple times on Twitter. But so you get to have a lot more flexibility there, and I think that’s why we have so much fun with it, because you can throw something out and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t hurt you.
Whereas on Facebook, if you have a bad post, that hurts where you fit it in the algorithm for the next couple of days. You really have to have a really high quality filter on Facebook and Instagram.
Can you really tell when you look at your Facebook numbers and say, “We had a bad post and that really hurt us?” Can you see it in the numbers?
Absolutely. And I think you can tell when you don’t mix up your content enough. This is sort of more an anecdotal thing than an actual, but you can tell when you post like six videos in a row, you sort of start to have diminishing returns. And some of that is people aren’t as interested, but some of it is also you posted six videos in a row. So finding a way to mix that up, have a good mix of content of photos, videos, web links, entertaining stuff, serious stuff, I think that helps you a lot on Facebook to diversify what it is you’re doing.
You have a lot of fun with you replies and I can tell you take some joy in the interaction you have with other accounts. Is there any limit, like, “Make sure you don’t reply to this driver, he’s not on our team” or replying to another team? Or do you pretty much have free reign to interact with anybody in the sport?
I have pretty free reign. I sort of know what my limits are. Like I know that Hendrick takes their account very seriously: It’s very straightforward, very professional. They are not going to reply to us. They can’t. And I respect that because that’s what their style guide is: Very straightforward, very AP style, and I think there’s a lot of value to that.
That’s obviously not how we handle our account, but you know a little bit of the drivers who are willing to have a little more fun, the other accounts that have a little more fun. I miss Jeff O’Keefe, he used to run the (Richard Childress Racing) account. He’s now with Toyota Racing. We used to have a lot of fun with him, especially two years ago when both our teams were really struggling and we’d get into a trash talk war over a 15th place pass. We’d have so much fun with stuff like that. You can get into it with JGR — Boris has a lot of fun.
I tend to be a little more conservative with drivers, especially. But sometimes one of them comes along and jumps into our mentions with something fun. I think my favorite example of that was Landon Cassill. We’d do mid-race giveaways, like, “Retweet this to win this Greg Biffle hat.” Landon had like wrecked on Lap 5 or 6. He was out of the race for some reason, but it was a race that he had started in. He retweeted it, so we started to be goofy like, “Congratulations Landon Cassill, you won the Greg Biffle hat,” and then he turned around and say, “OK, if anyone can prove that they’re both a Landon Cassill and a Greg Biffle fan, I’ll donate my hat to you.”
So you have some fun, and we’ve done a lot with Landon. Landon’s a really good sport with some of the stuff that we’ve done. And it’s great because he’s another Ford driver, he’s with Front Row who we have that alliance with. So you feel a little more comfortable making those jokes with him, because he’s on the team, really.
But there are other guys who will have a lot of fun, too, particularly some of the lower series guys I think who might not have had their professional media training just yet. They’re willing to have a lot of fun with us.
Let’s talk about how you got into it. You mentioned you were at Vanderbilt and you didn’t have a background in the sport. People are always asking about how to get into the sport. How did you get into it?
I applied for this job on LinkedIn.
I was about a year out of school. I was still living in Nashville. I was working for a small digital marketing company in Nashville, and I wanted to do something else. I’d gone to school to be a sports writer. I had a sports writing scholarship at Vanderbilt, and I wanted to skip that step where they pay you $15,000 a year to cover high school football. Obviously I never figured out how to do that.
So I was working for a marketing company and just started firing off different applications to places. It did crack me up, actually — the day I applied to Roush I had also applied to a job at WWE, and I came back and told my roommate and his girlfriend, and my roommate’s girlfriend — she’s from New Jersey, just wanted to clarify that first — she looks at me and goes, “I thought you wanted to work in real sports.” It’s like, “Oh, Cristina…”
But yeah, I applied to this job on LinkedIn, heard back a month later, did a phone interview on the Thursday of the Phoenix race week, then was asked to come in for an interview, drove down to Atlanta where I’m from and where my parents live and drove up to Charlotte the next Tuesday. I interviewed, then the Thursday after that I got offered the job and I started for spring Bristol two years ago.
So within a month, I went from applying to being the new social guy at Roush. It was incredible. I was so fortunate. It’s not necessarily a strategy I would recommend to everyone, it doesn’t always pan out, but I got super lucky. I have the best job in the world. It’s so much fun.
What else would you tell people about your job, because everyone sees the end results of your job, right? But they don’t really get to see everything that goes into it. What else is something that people don’t really understand about all that goes into the social media world from a team perspective?
That’s something that my boss laughed about too when I applied for the job on LinkedIn, they probably got 200 or 300 other applications and a lot of it was probably, “I’ve got a Facebook account, I know what to do.” And you do get a lot of that too. I don’t think people realize that it is a job. There’s a ton of planning that goes into it. You can’t just show up and just, “Oh what are we going to do today? Same thing we do every night, Pinky — try and take over the world.”
Yeah, you don’t just show up at the track: you work in the office five days a week too, 8 to 5. And there’s a ton of planning that goes in but there’s you’re also talking with sponsors, you’re talking with the drivers, you’re trying to balance the interests of everyone who’s putting their time, effort, their money into this team, into this program. I would say a lot of working with sponsors, not just to accommodate what they think they want but to also help them see how we can best deliver these results to you.
I think because a lot of people have their own personal social media accounts, that’s what they think about it: “Oh yeah, I can post four times a day. That’s not a problem.” Well social media’s also rooted in traditional marketing strategy, and I think you really do have to have a grasp of what the things are that work in marketing to understand what works on social, too. Because obviously the landscape has changed a ton, but the more things change, the more things stay the same.
I think having that grounding in marketing pays incredible dividends in this job. Being able to be creative is a nice bonus to it, but in order to meet the needs of these sponsors who are paying millions of dollars to have their name associated with your team, to be able to be the public face of this team and especially to be working under such a legendary owner like Jack who’s won 324 races in NASCAR — he’s been winning NASCAR races since before I was born — that’s a big role to step into. And it’s one that you have to appreciate the levity of, I think, if you’re going to do a good job.
I’m curious, as somebody who didn’t grow up in the sport and now are in it and part of a team, what was that experience like for you at Talladega? You were going to victory lane and being part of the celebration, but obviously still balancing having to do your job in a very high-pressure moment.
Man, that was so cool. Like I said, I’ve been with the team two years, so that was the first Cup win that we’ve had since I’ve been there, and we had won two Xfinity races before: Chris Buescher at Iowa and Chris Buescher at Dover in 2015. And of course we had the Xfinity championship. Thank God at least I know a little about how victory lane worked because otherwise, man, that’s a lot that you have to get done right away.
Especially at a plate track like that, and you have a close finish like that, there’s a lot going through your head. Your heart’s beating out of your chest at a place like that. I had stopped chewing my fingernails. It’s something that I’ve struggled with my whole life. And now I’d gone two months totally clean, and that race I chewed them all down to the nubs.
But a lot of that planning that you put in, we have an entire win plan written out, like half a book worth of stuff that we’re going to do from a PR side, from a social side, from a sponsor relations side. When we win a race, we have a plan for what’s going to happen.
Like any good plan, about 20 to 30 percent of it is not going to happen at all, so you’re running around trying to balance (what can get done). I hate to jinx stuff, but you have a tweet written out for when they cross the line, which in our case was just #ParkedIt because of Ricky’s best friend Bryan Clauson and how much that meant to him.
So I hit send on that and then you’re sprinting out because you’re trying to catch a video of the burnout, or a video of the crew celebrating at the pit box. So you’ve got about 20 different things that you want to get done, so you gotta do that. Then you’ve got to run to Victory Lane where probably your cell phone’s barely going to work and you’re going to drain 80 percent of the battery in 20 minutes anyway because you’re trying to decide, “Do I do a Facebook Live, do I do a Periscope? Well if I’m doing a Facebook Live I can’t tweet too. Kevin, I need to you tweet something. I need someone else to put something on Instagram.” So you’re trying to grab all hands on deck, anyone who has access to the stuff, and do as many things as possible.
So actually, Kevin was doing the Facebook Live there so I could tweet. His phone locked up, like completely locked up, we lost the feed, so we had to grab an account manager — a guy who works with Trevor’s account — we had to grab his phone, log in. So I’m tweeting from my phone, there’s no cell phone reception, so I’m passing him my phone so he can run into the media center and get this stuff out while I take more pictures. Man, it is just such chaos. But it’s fun.
And what you come to realize too is you have this plan for what’s going to work, but it really is just so in the moment. Things change so fast. That’s what you learn too from watching other sports, other accounts.
I take a lot of my cues from NBA teams. I think that NBA does the absolute best job of social media in sports in the whole world. Actually, cricket does a good job too, but I don’t know if people are going to be that interested in listening to me talk about the West Indies cricket team twitter account. But the NBA does such a good job, especially the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets — they have these great, creative people, and so you can see what works for them there and sort of apply it to what you do.
So I think at Talladega, we had such an emotional response on our accounts, such an excited one. It was probably a little over the top, but you sorta take that from watching other teams who do that and you realize, “Wow.” Maybe when you’re trying to sit down at a whiteboard and plan out what you’re going to do, you think of the most professional way to handle it, the most straightforward way. But then you watch some other teams do something and you go, “Sometimes people want emotion.”
Because if you try to put yourself in the seat of the fans of Roush, that’s how they felt. That’s the first time we’ve been in victory lane in three years. That’s what these people have been waiting for. People who are Ricky Stenhouse fans have never seen him in Cup victory lane. You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes because that’s what it’s all about. That’s who you’re marketing yourself to.