Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on his or her social media usage. Up next: Lynn Sudik, who is the social media coordinator for Dover International Speedway.
What exactly does your job entail? What are you in charge of? Do you have help tweeting and posting on Facebook and Instagram, or is it all you?
It’s a little bit different on race weekend versus the rest of the year. I work for the speedway full time and my primary responsibility is to handle our social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, Reddit — we’re on all of those channels. And then on race weekend I do have a little bit of extra help that comes in to capture content and post photos and other things like that. So this weekend, I actually have three people helping me with all of my social media needs.
For most of the year, your job is far different than two weekends which get super intense and busy and crazy, and I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure. How do you manage the plan going into a race weekend? How far out are you scheduling?
I use a social media management platform called Hootsuite. So I schedule a lot of my posts ahead of time. And what we like to do, since we don’t control the on-track product too much, we like to post about what it is we do control — i.e. stuff that happens in the Fan Zone and our Monster Mile Youth Nation area for kids.
So I will go in and look at our race weekend activities schedule, all of the driver appearances we have happening outside of the track. For example, this weekend we had Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex and the Sea Watch International display, we have the International Drone Racing Association here, so I will go in and find out when those events are happening and I will schedule a few posts to go out on various platforms to promote them and get people to go out and make sure that everybody’s aware of what’s happening.
What’s the balance then of running around on race weekend, getting content, photos, seeing what’s going on? You have the scheduled posts, but you also have tons of fan requests coming in that you’re having to manage. What’s the priority?
It’s definitely a challenge to strike that balance. Since I am the most knowledgable about our racetrack because I work here full time, I try to remain stationary in the media center for a good portion of the weekend so I can do those monitoring and scheduling posts to make sure that we’re covering everything and then that’s where my extra help comes in. A friend of mine, his name is Zach, he’s been helping me for a few years now and he’s actually been a race fan — that’s kind of how we got to know each other. He’s a big help in capturing some content on the outside that I can’t get to because I’m in the media center.
When fans tweet complaints to you, what’s your next step? Do you pass them along to other people? Do you just deal with what you can?
Any question that I know the answer to, I will address right there on the spot. If it’s a complaint or it’s a question that I don’t know the answer to, I will send that to the appropriate person on our staff and try and get that answer for that particular fan. I also try to let the fan know that we’re working through an answer for you; we’re not just leaving you hanging.
In general, I’m sure you get tweets like, “Hey, loving @MonsterMile, it’s so great to be here!” as well as people venting about things like, “Traffic @MonsterMile, you stink!” So is it more positive or negative?
We get a combination of all of the above and it also largely depends on the weather. So if we have a nice weather forecast, there are fewer complaints.
This past week for example, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the forecast for the race on Sunday wasn’t looking that great, so we were getting a lot of people asking us, “What’s the contingency plan? Will the race be run on Sunday? Will you move it to Saturday? Will it be run on Monday? What happens if Monday gets rained out?” I’m like, OK, let’s just take it one day at a time, the forecast is gonna change. So it does largely depend on what the weather situation is.
When it comes to a race weekend, is Twitter the one that you’re having to pay the most attention to? What happens to Facebook and Instagram on those weekends?
Twitter can be a handful to keep track of on race weekends. I will leave my computer for maybe a half hour and when I go back, it will take me about two hours to go through all the mentions that we have. It’s not that they’re negative, it’s not that they’re all questions or comments or concerns, but the race teams are tagging us in their practice photos and in photos of the drivers and lap times and all of that stuff.
So it’s sorting through what are tweets that I need to address and what are tweets that people are just posting about because they’re here. And that’s what we love to see, but it’s just a lot of the volume of tweets we get on any given race weekend is huge. Like I said, it takes me a while to sort through them all.
And then Facebook, people tend to spend a little more time complaining on Facebook just because they have more room to work with. So a lot of people will voice their concerns on our Facebook wall, and again, that’s where I can address it in the moment if I can. Otherwise I will pass it along to whoever and get answers or address whatever concerns people have.
How far out do you start planning the tweet up?
I guess it’s probably about a month out. It depends on the situation if we can get a guest there or not. Most of the times if we have to make an ask for a guest, no one is really concerned about our race until at the very least two weeks out.
But I also have a hand in some other things on race weekend. Our Monster Mile Youth Nation, we have a youth autograph session that NASCAR helps us to coordinate. I am the Dover point of contact for that, so when it comes to scheduling the tweet up, I need to make sure that I don’t have those times overlapping. So it also depends on my schedule and when I can make it work on race weekend.
I imagine there has to be a trust factor with your co-workers like Gary Camp (who leads the track’s communications), where you may want to tweet something at times, but obviously you can’t totally speak for the entire track on some issues or some decisions. Do you ever have to go to your co-workers and ask, “Hey am I allowed to say this?” Or have you been here long enough now that there’s a trust level?
When I started, they were a little more involved. I think one of the first days on the job, Gary talked about an intern who had handled their social media at one point before I got there and posted something weather-related, (saying) the weather didn’t look that great. (Camp) made a point that we never want to discourage people from coming to the track. So we always try to keep a positive attitude on our social media accounts.
But yeah, there is a trust factor, and I feel like I’ve figured out what is appropriate to say and what’s necessarily not going to go over well if it’s posted publicly.
What is your background? How did you get into it and what’s the suggested path you may have for people who want to make a similar career move?
I have wanted to work in motorsports since I was around 14 years old. I was born in Indianapolis and kind of grew up around IndyCar racing. I went to college, my degree is in communications. My first job out of college, I was working for a PR agency in New York City not related to motorsports at all. But I still had that dream and I still kept after it.
I actually found this particular opening through an online job board called TeamWork Online. A lot of the tracks, both independent and (International Speedway Corporation) and (Speedway Motorsports Inc.), they’ll post their openings on there as well as a lot of other professional sports leagues.
I also got my Master’s degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University. I just graduated this spring.
But if this is somebody’s dream job to work in motorsports, I would say to never give up. I had to work through a lot and it took me a solid five years of trying, applying for jobs, networking to actually land this particular job. So don’t ever give up on that dream if you want to work in motorsports.
That’s my top advice as well because I feel like a lot of people want to get into racing and then they realize it’s really hard to break in. Just to get that initial foot in the door, and I think a lot of people give up — so half of it is just persevering and sacrificing enough and never letting that dream go. Because eventually, if you’re truly passionate about it, some door will open. Do you know what I’m saying?
Yeah, I would definitely echo those sentiments. It’s about never giving up, it’s about persevering and sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.
I had made a lot of effort to network and get to know people in the industry, but this particular job I didn’t know anybody at the company before I applied for this opening. And it just kind of happened that I applied at the right time and they called me in for an interview and then I ended up getting the job.
So it’s definitely about who you know, but it can also be about what you know, so make sure that you keep trying and you sharpen your skills to the best of your ability in order to make yourself a viable candidate.
Is there anything else that you want people to know about what you guys do with the Monster Mile accounts or anything like that?
I feel like we talked a lot about people complaining, but I don’t want to the give the idea that the only posts that we receive on race weekend are complaints because they’re not. I just retweeted somebody who posted a picture in the Fan Zone and I was like, “Yeah! Love it! Have a great time, we’re so glad you’re here!”
So it’s a balance of all of those negative and positive comments, but if you’re not already following us, you really should be. We’re @MonsterMile on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and then on Facebook our page is Dover International Speedway.