Each week, I’m asking someone from the racing industry about their social media use in a feature called the Social Spotlight. Up next: Brennan Poole, the Xfinity Series driver from Chip Ganassi Racing. You can follow Poole’s vlog on YouTube here or check out his Twitter and Instagram feeds. This interview is also available in podcast form.
You’re into a lot of different forms of social media. What’s your favorite?
That’s a good question. I was trying to come up with something funny to say there, but I just don’t have anything. I totally bombed it.
But I like YouTube. I like creating the vlogs and doing the videos. Like you said, it’s Friday here in Bristol and I have vlog coming out today, so I’m excited about that. It’s a West Coast Swing vlog. I got to go out there and run Corvettes and I went hiking and I was in Vegas. We ran into Siegfried from Siegfried & Roy, so I have a lot of cool content for the vlogs. That’s what’s really fun to me — trying to make a little movie every day. So I enjoy doing that. It is tough, though. It does take up a lot of time and I end up becoming slack and missing things and whatever.
But I also enjoy Twitter and Instagram. What’s cool about Instagram is that it’s just pictures. I think nowadays, we all live in this world where we want to see images and we want to watch video — we don’t really want to read much of anything. So on Twitter, I watch the videos and I look at pictures on Twitter that might not be on Instagram. I like Twitter because I can share news and articles and post links that you can click on to go right to things, but I’m probably on Instagram more than anything else.
I did like Vine, but it doesn’t exist now.
Yeah, what the hell? Vine was a big loss.
Yeah, Vine was like, when I’m in the restroom, I’m just on Vine the whole time scrolling through every video. And when I see something funny, I send it to a friend and it just grows out of control and then my entire friend group is watching this one stupid Vine.
But I had some Vines that I thought were funny, but it seemed like Vine was hard to gain followers yourself. If you weren’t a Vine star, you weren’t gonna gain traction because everybody was only watching their content, so that part of it was tough.
Where like YouTube, your content is just out there for everyone and you can just push out whatever you want and you can really start to grow. I think my subscribers have been growing, and of course all my content now is on NASCAR.com, so you can watch all my stuff on their YouTube channel or whatever, but it’s on their website. We got 1,200 views on the Daytona vlog, so I’m kind of proud of that. I’m hoping that it’ll continue to grow.
Let’s talk about the YouTube stuff for a little bit. How did you decide that you wanted to be a vlogger, and is it one of these things where everything you do, you have to remember to take your phone out and film it?
I wanted to become a vlogger because of Casey Neistat. I was watching his vlogs every day and I was like, “Man, this guy is really good. He’s really interesting.” I was so influenced by listening to him talk about his struggles and how he became successful and stuff that he was working on to still become more successful, and so kind of being able to watch that journey with him day by day, I was like, “Man, this is something that’s special.”
And so I thought that a NASCAR driver needed to do this, somebody in NASCAR needs to do this. And the more I watched him, the more time that went by, I was like, “Screw it, I’m gonna just buy a camera and do it.” Now, I do shoot a lot of it off my phone now because in the garage and when I’m doing stuff for DC Solar and NASCAR, it’s hard to be carrying a camera around or have a backpack for the camera and everything.
Nowadays on your phone you can shoot 4K, so I just grab my phone and start shooting whatever I think is interesting and I do time lapses and everything off my phone. All that stuff comes out in really good quality, and the audio sounds great, too.
You know, I think for me, I keep plugging Casey Neistat because I want to meet him one day, so I’m like, “Casey Neistat, Casey Neistat” in the media center or whatever and the random chance he may see it, (it might) get him to race me, get him to vlog his race experience. But most of his stuff just inspired me to do something different. It’s been a lot of fun.
What’s the editing process like? You take all this footage of your daily life, you’re going around doing all this stuff, and then you have to sit down once a week or once every couple of weeks and try to put all this together. How long does that take you and what all goes into that?
You know, everyone’s vlogs are different, so when I talk about mine, I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing a vlog because you can literally just do it on iMovie and cut it up and whatever, and you can do it that way.
But for us, one of my really good friends, Bryan Baumgartner, does most of the editing because I simply just don’t have time. You know, I’m training, I’m in the shop for meetings, I’m riding my bike, I’m in the pool swimming, I’m in the gym lifting, I’m studying film, I’m going over notes and pre-race notes and getting ready for the weekend. There’s just no time for me to sit down and edit a vlog and put one out every week.
So he’s been able to influence the vlog a lot and put in a little bit of his creativity, and he kind of sees some things a little bit differently than I see. And something that I may not really want to put in there, he’ll put it in the vlog and make it where I’m comfortable with it. And it ends up making the video even more interesting than what I thought because it’s always awkward when you’re filming yourself and then you’re judging yourself on what you should put in there.
So he kind of sees it like, “No, that’s really interesting, we need to have it go this way,” and so having that really helps me. But he spends 10 to 13 hours a week on the video because there’s so much content that he has to watch all of it. I try to point out things that I really think should be in the vlog or kind of how the stories went, and I have to give him when I shot what so he kind of knows the timeline, and then he just busts it out and he does a fantastic job.
Now is the vlog almost a year old, or not quite that long?
Not quite. I started it last year at the second Iowa race. That was the first one I ever did. So (the anniversary) is coming, it’s not too far away. But I had to learn through the process to film and record interesting things. If you watch the first couple, you’ll see that I just film in my car or I film in the shop or I film in my house — I’m not like walking around filming.
I think that’s what makes Casey Neistat’s vlogs so interesting, because one he lives in New York City and he’s riding around on his Boosted Board and he’s just shooting all this stuff and you kind of feel like you’re in New York and you’re experiencing some of his experiences.
So for me, I’m still trying to work on that, to make my fans and the audience feel like they’re there and a part of it, too. That’s what’s tough — getting those shots that make you feel like you’re actually there. So I feel like I’ve gotten better at that. My last several vlogs have been, in my opinion, really good, but I’m still working on creating that feel.
You talked about your subscribers growing a little bit. How tough is it then to get that audience? I’m sure at times, you put out a video and you’re waiting for the reaction and you’re like, “Hello?” You know, just the feeling of, “Does anybody see this? How can I get this in front of more people?”
For me, that’s why I try to do this stuff with NASCAR.com to help more people realize that it’s there (NASCAR has been uploading Poole’s videos to its own YouTube channel). I think for me on my social media and stuff I’m almost at 10,000 followers on Twitter and I’m close to 6,000 on Instagram, so I’m trying to push it to an audience that I just don’t quite have yet.
But I feel like if I have the content and it’s there, when people find out about it, they can go back and watch from Vlog No. 1 and there’s literally like a whole story there.
I think one thing that’s important is being consistent with putting videos out, which is something that I’ve struggled with. I’ve got a new deal in place now where I will have a video out every single week, which I’m really excited about starting this week — but it was just tough. Everyone has jobs to get done, so it’s really difficult to put time towards a product that you’re just trying to grow by yourself. It’s really tough. So I’m excited about the next several weeks.
Some of the new videos, the content that we have, I think is really funny, so I hope a lot of the fans and some of the drivers enjoy it. I’m only up to 400 or 500 subscribers, so I’m still trying to grow. But like I said, the NASCAR.com thing is starting to get more views and I’m starting to get up over 1,000 views on some of my videos, which for me is a big step. I think when you’re at a smaller number, getting to that first 1,000 is really hard, and then getting to the next 1,000 is a little easier, and the next and the next and the next, it kind of gets a little easier as it grows.
Hopefully by the end of this year, my goal was to get 50,000 views on a video or like 50,000 subscribers — 50,000 subscribers is insane, I try to be realistic — maybe 20,000, but that’s just really what I want to try and do because I like vlogging and doing it so much, and I feel like there’s a space there to create some interesting content and really give people a bit of a behind-the-scenes of what a race car driver really goes through.
I’m still a normal guy and a normal kid and I do normal things, but also you get to see a little bit of the training and the work side of things, being at the shop and kind of what I’m dealing with. I think it’s kind of cool because through video, you can really experience what someone’s going through, where through a tweet or a picture, you might not necessarily see all that.
Do you want your vlog to be something that is mainly consumed by race fans, or do you have a vision of it becoming something that can attract the mainstream audience?
Yeah, I want it to attract the mainstream audience. I want it to be where people are tuning into the vlogs just because they’re interesting. I feel like that’s what people do with Casey Neistat’s vlogs and some of the other vloggers on YouTube; people just tune in because they’re invested in them as a person and so I really want to grow. Not that I want attention or anything like that, I just want to be a normal guy who’s filming normal stuff who happens to be a race car driver and just inviting everyone in to see what that’s like.
Does anybody around you question the commitment level? Because it sounds like you’re really committed to this, and they’re like, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
(Laughs) Yeah, I mean a few people like some of my teammates and stuff are like, “Man, you just walk around and video everything and yourself and it’s gotta be timed and it’s awkward?” I’m like, “Yeah, it is.” But when I go back and I watch the video or I watch something that I felt like was awkward but I just acted through it, basically, I watch it like, “Man, that was actually really good.” So I try to be comfortable and just not really care as much about what I’m filming. Like now, I’ll just walk through the airport, I’ll walk to dinner, I’ll walk on the street and I’ll just be filming and recording and I don’t really care.
Are people looking at you funny?
Yeah, people are like, “What is that guy doing?” So now, because I capture a lot of stuff on my phone other than my actual camera, I think people just think that I’m Snapchatting or posting an Instagram story or something; they don’t really know. I’m like, “They don’t know what I’m doing, so whatever, it doesn’t matter.”
Let’s talk about a few other social media networks. You touched on Twitter. How much are you on Twitter, looking at tweets?
I probably look at Twitter everyday. I read something the other day that’s like people look at their phone within the first 10 minutes of waking up or something, but I would say I’m probably one of those people. I mean, that’s where I get most of my news. I don’t really watch the news on TV, I’m not searching the web or anything, I’m not really on BuzzFeed now.
Lindsey (Giannini, his girlfriend) is obsessed with BuzzFeed; I looked at her data the other day and 78% of it was from BuzzFeed. So, I was giving her a hard time about that because BuzzFeed is just kind of ridiculous. They do a great job and there’s some good news on there and the quizzes are fun, but BuzzFeed, you’re taking over my girlfriend’s life, so please, settle down!
But Twitter, I’m on there and usually I try to answer every fan, too. I don’t have an insane amount of followers yet — like I said, I’m almost at 10,000 — so if someone asks me something, I usually answer. Or if somebody gives me a compliment or whatever, I’ll like the tweet. I always try to interact with everyone as best as I can, you know?
I had a lot of people talking to me this past week about the NBA playoffs and the NHL playoffs, too, because I posted one tweet where I was like, “Man, the NBA playoffs are awesome.” And then people were like, “No, watch hockey!” And people were talking about like, “No, what are you talking about? Watch basketball!” I’m like, “Guys, I watch both, calm down.” But I think that’s what’s cool about Twitter — being able to interact with fans instantly. It’s kind of like texting, but through the Internet.
You touched on Instagram. Do you prefer Instagram stories or Snapchat stories?
When Instagram first put out their stories, I was like, “Come on guys, stop stealing other people’s things. It’s just kind of getting ridiculous.” Like on all social media, there’s a giant war going on that none of us even know it happening between all of them.
But I look at all the Instagram stories because I get bored and I’ve already scrolled through so many pictures on Instagram. If I’m on a flight or waiting to get on the plane or at a restaurant by myself, whatever, I scroll though it. So I’ll look through everyone’s stories, but for me, I like Snapchat a little bit better.
Plus, they’re the original guys. It’s kind of like my favorite Mexican food restaurant, well one of them, it’s the original Ninfa’s in Houston and the original is just better than all the chain Ninfa’s around. All my friends are on Snapchat, so we just use Snapchat.
I kind of agree with you in that even though there’s more people on Instagram, I prefer Snapchat. I almost get annoyed when people post Instagram stories. It’s kind of like, “Great, now I have to look at this.”
You have to look at it twice! And now Facebook has stories, too. Did you see that? So it’s like, “What’s happening?” And that’s what’s interesting, too, that’s why I come back to YouTube all the time because YouTube’s like you can make a mini movie. It’s like making stories and people are seeing what you’re doing and it’s kind of like a vlog through your story, but on YouTube there’s this content that is there forever, and you can always go back and look at it.
I think that’s one thing for me that’s special, because I’m recording all these moments in my career as I’m moving forward and I’m always gonna have that to go back and look on, which is pretty cool.
How do people subscribe to your channel if they’re listening and they’re not huge YouTubers?
If you just go to YouTube.com and you search “Brennan Poole,” my channel actually will come up and you can click on it. It’ll list all my vlogs, you’ll see all of them. You’ll also see some other random videos in there, perhaps me crashing somebody a few years ago, or Talladega race is very common with my name if you search it, but my videos are there.
And in the video I give you an option at the end of the newer vlogs that you can click there to subscribe, and basically when you have a YouTube profile and you subscribe to a channel, it’ll give you a notification whenever I post a new video.
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!