Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. Up next: Brandon Brown, digital marketing manager for Chicagoland Speedway.
The Chicagoland Speedway account on Twitter (@ChicagolndSpdwy) does a good job interacting with followers all year long, not just on a race weekend. What’s your philosophy as far as engaging on the feed throughout the season?
Well that’s kind of what it’s all about. I’ve been a NASCAR fan since I was 8 years old, so I appreciate talking to NASCAR fans like a NASCAR fan. That’s kind of my social media strategy.
One of the things I try to do is staying in every conversation we possibly can. For example: On Tuesday, Hendrick announced Chase Elliott was taking over the No. 9 car and William Byron was moving to the 24. I had a video queued up of when Chase Elliott won here in the 9 car in the Xfinity Series in 2014, and fans just started jumping on that. They started sending us pictures, saying, “Man, I was here in victory lane,” or “I saw his burnout.” It’s just great to interact that way. There’s no real science to social media, and that’s the way I look at it.
FYI: @chaseelliott has pulled the No. 9 car into Victory Lane here once before.
It’ll be AWESOME seeing him driving it again next year. pic.twitter.com/Bg4EivZ4uP
— Chicagoland Speedway (@ChicagolndSpdwy) August 29, 2017
What’s the balance? Obviously you want to sell tickets to your race, but you also want to keep people informed and interact with them.
It’s a great balance because we want to let people know as Chicagoland Speedway what we have to offer: What the ticket prices are, how many camping spots we have, all the new amenities. But people on social media, you’ll find they become really disengaged when you just hit them over the head with “Buy tickets now, buy tickets now, we want you to buy tickets now.” And social media isn’t really the place for that, in my opinion.
So we hit on all of our marketing messages. We let people know that yes, we have tickets and we want people to come here. Our main goal is to put 55,000 people in those seats, sell out all of our camping spots and give people a great time. But on social media, you have to do different things. You have to stay conversational, and that’s not always hitting people over the head with ticketing messages.
How did you arrive at that conclusion? Is it instinct, or is there data that tells you?
There’s some great tools on Facebook, especially, where you can see what messaging point you threw out there and you lost 10 or 15 followers. And you can use that data to gear your posts toward being more conversational.
But a lot of the time on Twitter, I just do what I think I would want to see. Being a NASCAR fan myself from way back, I put out content I would like to engage with. I would call it sending out shareable content that gives you an emotional investment. If you’re emotionally invested in the content, you’re more likely to relate to it and share it out. And that helps us and that gets the job done.
You touched on Facebook, so let’s talk about that for a second. What’s the difference between content you put on Facebook and what you put on Twitter?
Well I treat Twitter as basically a place where you can have endless conversations with people about anything. Facebook is much more structured than Twitter when it comes to that. If you put out 20 Facebook posts a day, the algorithm will dilute it and all of your messaging will get filtered out unless it’s something that is really, really shareable.
But on Twitter, if I’m out there bantering with Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega, The Orange Cone and retweeting you all at the same time, it’s less likely to do that. So Facebook, we really try to stick more toward our sales messages and put your really, really great content on Facebook. On Twitter, you can be more conversational with it.
What is the strategy from a team perspective at Chicagoland? Do you have free reign to say what you want? Are there brainstorming sessions?
From Jan. 1 to race weekend, we have a great outline as to what we want to accomplish and when we want to accomplish it. But as you know, social media is 24/7/365 and very fluid, so we follow an outline, but you can’t always follow it to the T because things are changing all the time.
Are there any times when you worry about going too far with a tweet? Have you ever been reprimanded for something you tweeted?
I haven’t been reprimanded. I live-tweet all the races, and it’s saying our company message but also as a fan. When Ryan Blaney was battling Kevin Harvick (for Blaney’s first win at Pocono), you’re going nuts on Twitter. So there have been a couple things I’ve been asked to take down, but nothing really, really bad.
But when we were traveling to Michigan, we camped there and my co-worker Michael (Blaszczyk, consumer marketing manager) and I live-tweeted our trip from the Chicagoland account. So we told fans to ask us anything. One fan asked us why we don’t give out free hot passes. I said hot passes aren’t as easy to get as you might think.
But then Dale Jr. quote-tweeted us and tweeted to this guy — his name is Jeff — “Don’t lie to Jeff.”
Don’t lie to Jeff. https://t.co/879lE2f0AX
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 11, 2017
And of course, what Dale Jr. says on Twitter is the law and it blew up. I had that heart attack moment where, “Oh my God, I’m going to have to delete this tweet, we’re going to have to put out a press release,” all this stuff.
But then Jon Wood (from Wood Brothers Racing) jumped in and was like, “Dale’s just lying” or something like that, and a couple other team guys said he was just BSing. And that quelled it. But you have those heart attack moments where you’re trying to put out something that’s edgy and fun and cool, and you just hope it doesn’t get you in trouble.
You mentioned you grew up being a fan. What was your journey to get to this point and become the digital marketing manager for Chicagoland Speedway?
Since 1993, I’ve either watched, listened to or saw in person probably 99 percent of the NASCAR races. I almost quit Little League Baseball because I couldn’t watch the 2000 Pepsi 400. It’s been a dream of mine to work in NASCAR in some capacity. I went to journalism school at West Virginia University and got a degree in broadcasting, and I wanted to be Ken Squier. Ken Squier is my broadcasting hero.
You have to start somewhere doing something, so I was a sports writer in West Virginia while I was in broadcasting school. And then luckily I got on as a stringer at the Associated Press covering women’s basketball. (AP racing writer) Jenna Fryer went to West Virginia, and she came to our school to speak. And of course, I was asking her (questions), bugging her, went to lunch with her and then I paid my way to the Coke 600 in 2008 just to shadow her for a weekend.
After I got out of college, I was a sports writer at my local paper and then worked at a sports marketing company doing copy editing and publishing and then we started social media marketing. When I was ready to move on, the Chicagoland Speedway digital marketing coordinator job opened up, and I jumped at the chance. I went and applied, and within two weeks, I was hired. It was probably one of the greatest days of my life.
How does that fan perspective inform your decisions on a day-to-day basis?
I think it goes back to what I would want to see and hear and feel and visualize as a fan. Whenever we’re pushing out marketing messages, our videos, even our creative pieces, I want every little thing to make me feel like I did when I was a kid. Like we pushed out Kyle Busch’s 18 Days to Go on our social channels (Wednesday), and Toyota Racing interacted with it and it was just really fun stuff, so it spread out to a lot of people. I want to make all of our fans have an emotional investment like I did when I was a kid.
Let’s get Rowdy on September 17, shall we?
— Chicagoland Speedway (@ChicagolndSpdwy) August 30, 2017
For people whose careers are just starting off and want to make it in the NASCAR industry like you did, what advice would you give to those people?
If you’re in college, do every little thing you can outside of your schoolwork. How I got on with the Associated Press is I ran stats at the (high school) state swimming meet for two 14-hour days. Basically, they’d swim for a little bit, I’d put the stats on a jump drive and send them down to Charleston, West Virginia. They’d publish them and we’d go back and forth. Basically, I was just sitting there for the majority of the day watching high school swimming.
I didn’t have to do that. They asked at the school paper: “Hey, who wants to do this?” I said, “Sure.” The next week, the AP called me and said, “Hey, do you want to cover women’s basketball?” Then men’s basketball, then football. Then Jenna Fryer came along. So the best advice is to do every little thing you can to advance your career.
What haven’t I asked you that you want fans to know about?
In NASCAR terms, we’re a new track — 2001. A lot of tracks have the history to pull from for content. Dale Earnhardt never raced here. We can’t showcase Dale Earnhardt on any of our social channels, and we know that fans absolutely love seeing old pictures of Senior and videos. We have a smaller pool of history to pull from, so we have to be really creative in stuff we do. So that’s a challenge, but it’s a really, really fun challenge.
It sounds like you really like your job.
I really, really like my job. I kind of stole this from your Quiet Track pictures, but I do sunrises every single race day. The first Cup sunrise (on the job), I sat there and thought of one of Ken Squier’s calls to tweet out, and I started tearing up. Because it was that powerful.
Living the dream, right?
Absolutely living the dream. It’s awesome.
This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).