In this month’s guest column we are visited by the Digital Media Manager of the IMCA, Barry Braun. Braun is a for-hire new media consultant with his company, X.CELERATED, co-owner of the live web motorsports provider XSAN, producer of many film projects featuring dirt track racing, and most importantly has a blunt and realistic opinion of the dirt track racing industry. Will you agree with his take on the use of Social Media with the local track? – Editor
Dealing with your customers on the web should mirror how you do business at your facility. Listen, discuss, and react.
Let’s make something perfectly clear. This is NOT the way to deal with social media. This is NOT a way to deal with your customers. In the long run, such treatment will find you out of business. It’s inevitable, if you treat your customers (fans, drivers, sponsors) like trash or even give them the perception that your organization is negative, then prepare for a negative bottom line.
Facebook (and to a certain extent Twitter) has caught fire in recent years, and the dirt track industry’s involvement is no exception. Smart Phones, iPads/tablets, and the trusty old personal computer has put technology at the fingertips of almost everyone. In some way, shape, or form, a majority of the dirt track audience has access to some form of information technology.
It’s not a new trend. The message boards of years past acted as a precursor to the explosion of social media. In fact, the ability to hide behind a screen name or even multiple screen names permitted the poster anonymity that allowed for some very personal and hate filled vendettas that put an extremely bad taste in the mouth of not-so-savvy internet users.
Track operators, promoters, and sanctioning bodies often saw the internet as the devil. How could anyone expect these folks to treat new forms of media with any acceptance? In reality, to be involved with the internet and social media means you have to deal with your customers directly. Unfortunately, a majority of tracks, promoters, and sanctions have lost all interest in listening and prefer to run things their own way with the expectation that people will just show up.
How do we deal with this?
Dealing with your customers on the web should mirror how you do business at your facility. Listen, discuss, and react. Do not allow a potentially negative situation to escalate. The damage, via internet word-of-mouth, affects your revenue.
Everything you say on social media is amplified to the entire web universe. Carefully craft your wording and be kind, accepting, and thankful for the feedback of your customers. While it may not be feasible to implement all of your customer’s suggestions, do your best to meet them in the middle. The old adage is true–the customer is always right, and you have to do your best to give them an experience like no other. With countless entertainment options available for your customers, do not give them the impression you do not care. They will no longer be your customer.
Social Media Tips
Social Media Policies – if you have one, throw it out. While the truth (or lack there of) might hurt, at times you WANT people talking. It is called SOCIAL media after all. Get people talking about your track, your event, or the awesome drivers in your sanction. If you have a situation that escalates, deal with it. If you have a problem with a rain out, track prep, or any of the common issues associated with dirt tracks across the United States, FIX IT. Own your responsibility as a track operator, promoter, or sanction and make it right. Use social media as a rally to hype your customers and get them fully vested into the product you provide.
At any time if you feel the need to penalize your drivers for what they say online, then I plead you to do yourself the biggest favor in the history of the internet and dose that policy in gasoline and light it on fire. Nothing will give your drivers the impression that you do not care for their participation more then a fine or suspension.
Facebook Account vs. Fan page – if you have a Facebook account, delete it. While many have gotten away with it for years, a personal account for a business is against Facebook policy. Should Facebook decides to enforce this policy, all of the effort you have put into updating your Facebook could be deleted in an instant. Build a fan page, share it, and build your brand with the tools that Facebook allows. Don’t get your hand slapped for not playing by the rules. It will make your organization look unprofessional (and in all internet honesty, without getting into specifics, you reach less customers by doing it the wrong way).
Update Often – during and after your event by any means necessary. Get out information on your drivers (the talent you are selling), post information on the weather, get feedback via polls, utilize the ability of your fans to use their smart phones to have check in contests, photo contests, etc. Promote a Twitter feed that posts results. Utilize Social Media as added VALUE and interaction with your customers. Hire an intern to do this busy work and create a cool factor that other organizations have not developed. Share what goes on behind-the-scenes to help build the storylines and drama of your event. Build the hype to a fever pitch! Developing a solid social media program will feed your hungry customers the information they seek.
All Video, All the Time – with a combination of track produced footage, minor cell phone video updates, and even the participation of your fans’ handycam footage. Video is the king of the internet. Video will keep the attention of your fans for minutes instead of seconds. If you have the ability, produce and package it well, but do not go over four minutes. While you may have the attention of the customer, the customer attention span has shortened with the mass amounts of media available. The On Demand society wants to be fed really cool, really fast, compact information. The ability to have their attention for even those precious minutes, instead of seconds, is vital.
Out with the old, in with the new
The fear of working with social media and the internet is often, quite simply, a lack of education to the possibilities it affords your business. Many find it difficult to do something they did not grow up with, or to risk taking a change at something new–in this case, adapting business practices based on the evolution of how people consume information. Get out of your comfort zone and put your track, organization, or event to the forefront. Once you do it, and are successful (and successful you will be) others will follow.
It may seem extreme, but my suggestion is to not spend a single dollar on radio, TV, or newspaper advertising. Shift your focus to building an awesome brand, website, an effective and engaging social media program, video, and even the old school grassroots approach of flyer posting. I know, most will say that you still HAVE to advertise via traditional methods to reach people. What is advertising through print, radio or TV bringing you? How many tracks are financially successful these days? Make the effort, SOCIALize with your fans, make them interested, provide unparalleled entertainment, and reap the rewards.