NASCAR pushes for more social media engagement
NASCAR has started talking directly to fans more regularly on social media this season, a shift in strategy to make the series’ channels reflect the sport’s emphasis on accessibility.
Like every sports league, NASCAR has been active on social media for around a decade, and it uses Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat to reach its fan base. But while NASCAR had engaged with commenters in the past on social platforms, it was sparingly, and the accounts were typically a one-way conversation.
But this year, NASCAR has started routinely responding to fans’ comments and has stepped up the amount of content it creates to specifically start debates, which the industry refers to as “engagement hacks.”
“Our team puts a lot of attention on creating content that is engaging and platform specific, and as we’ve matured as a group, we saw an opportunity to have more interaction with people,” said Amanda Lordy, NASCAR’s managing director of digital content. “It’s not that priorities shifted as much as we saw an opportunity and took advantage of that.”
For example, after an eventful race at Watkins Glen International earlier this month, NASCAR’s Twitter account asked its 3.3 million followers: “What was your favorite moment from Sunday’s race @WGI? Let’s hear ‘em.” In the hour after sending the tweet, NASCAR responded to a Chase Elliott fan and sent a smiling emoji to a fan who said his favorite moment was when Bubba Wallace intentionally spun out Kyle Busch.
When NASCAR’s driver transaction period, loosely referred to as the “silly season,” started heating up last week, NASCAR got on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and asked fans to give their predictions of who would go where. After some commenters on Instagram started to send wild predictions about the sport overall, NASCAR followed up and wrote in a conversational style: “For the uninitiated, silly season refers specifically to driver movement! New teams, changing series, retirements! Although we can tell some of you are just posting silly predictions [crying laughing emoji].”
On top of its 3.3 million followers on Twitter, NASCAR has 4.8 million on Facebook and 1 million on Instagram.
Lordy said at least one member of the social team has the responsibility every day to comb through comments on social media — Facebook and Instagram the most — to see what fans are talking about, which gives the group an idea about what content to engage with.
She pointed to a plan NASCAR did in April on Instagram, where it asked fans to tag their favorite drivers in a post and see what happens. NASCAR privately worked with drivers ahead of time to make them aware of the play, and 45 different drivers responded to fans. NASCAR also sent out a post on “World Emoji Day” in July asking fans to identify their favorite racetrack by using no more than four emojis.
At the behest of Facebook, one major focus for NASCAR this year has been to create groups on that platform and engage around certain topics. NASCAR created one called “Glassholes” for fans of the NASCAR.com podcast called “Glass Case of Emotion.” The group had about 2,500 members as of last week, and NASCAR is creating other groups.
Lordy said NASCAR is judging success more on the amount of engagement it gets and less on the number of followers it gains. Lordy took over a more encompassing digital role earlier this year after previously focusing on NASCAR’s work with sponsors on social media. NASCAR’s previous managing director of social media, Scott Warfield, took on oversight of NASCAR’s gambling efforts earlier this year.
Meredith Kinsman, Octagon’s senior vice president of digital strategy, who is not working with NASCAR, said the move to engage directly with fans is smart. “Brands have been doing that for a long time; every major brand has their customer service team set up on social to reply to everyone who might be commenting on the brand, so it’s nice to see some leagues getting into this as well.”