Sunday, March 4, 2012

Media, Social Media and Other Things

It all started Saturday afternoon with a simple question:

@OriolServia: I'm bored at the airport, anybody has indycar questions?

So started a Twitter Q&A between Oriol Servia and IndyCar fans. Yet another example of the effort many IndyCar drivers make to interact with the fans. Servia answered several questions, including mine where I asked him what advice he would give to Rubens Barrichello when he starts driving ovals.

@OriolServia: Patience and do not follow !

Great advice, actually. And I think the first word of that "advice" should be some advice to those of us who think IndyCar isn't getting it done in the social media world.

Ever since NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski Tweeted during the red flag period at the Daytona 500 on Monday, people have had this idea that IndyCar is being totally pantsed when it comes to social media. As with many things comparing Cup to IndyCar, it's not fair or accurate.

One thing many don't know is that in a way what Keselowski did wasn't anything new.  A couple of IndyCar drivers tweeted from their cars during the famous parade down the Strip while in Vegas back in October, so while no one had done it during a race, drivers have given a glimpse into the world from their office before.

Many drivers and teams are very active on Twitter, and while what Keselowski was cool and brought him new followers, he still falls almost 225,000 followers short of Tony Kanaan, who is one of the better and more frequent tweeters in IndyCar. Looking back to last year, many drivers were very active while the season was in progress, and I see this year even being more.

And let's be honest, were many people talking about NASCAR and social media before the season even started? So with the IndyCar season -- and first TV broadcast -- three weeks away, why should we be in bash mode for what the series is and isn't doing?

Because first, I think they are watching what other forms of media are doing, and they are paying attention. And second, some of those ideas are being put into place. 

As guest blogger Angie King found out in a post on the blog Indycar Minnesota if you ask a few questions you get some great answers. In just a few e-mails with a member of the @indycar staff, she discovered that not only are they planning on expanding the role in social media, Twitter hashtags for each event are being finalized and will be passed out to the teams to use concerning each race weekend.

So my point is this: let's wait until the season starts before we get up in arms. 

Now, that's not to say there aren't a ton of things the cars and drivers can do to expand their reach to the fans. There are lots of areas that either need improvement or can be used to do even better.

The first is websites. Recently I have gone to several sites only to find out they are stale and haven't been updated in quite some time. I know that during the off-season there isn't always a lot to post, but still they need to do SOMETHING to keep the fans engaged. Post a couple of headlines, or a blog or even some photos. Keep things moving.

I mean, if I know that the more frequently I update my site the more visits I get, they should know that too. But still, as hard as this is to believe, the Indy 500 website hasn't updated its blog since Nov. 7. Really?

Another media source I think teams should utilize is Youtube. How cool would it be to see some video or a quick recap of how teams did during a practice or qualifying session? I don't see how hard it would be for a PR person or assistant to carry a flip recording device or something to get some footage. And I don't see how it would be a problem for a driver to stop really quick and share a minute's worth of thoughts after a session.

It's no different than stopping to speak with a couple of reporters, and gets the message out the way they want it. When I interview an athlete or a coach after a game, I would guess that our talk lasts, say, two minutes. What gets in the story probably totals 5-10 seconds. That doesn't mean I didn't like what they said the rest of the time, in fact, I can't tell you how many times I've heard a quote and said "man, I love that quote but just can't find anywhere to use it".

Full video helps, and also showcases more of their personality. In a short sound byte or quote, Scott Dixon doesn't come across as a very interesting guy. But he is quite witty on Twitter and is way better in interviews and conversations I have seen on video. Team-issued video would work well for him.

To quote fictional heavyweight champion Clubber Lang, one of the best faux quote-machines of all time, I got a lotta more on this subject, which I will share in a later post.

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