Pocono Raceway has no way knowing or even guessing whether its extensive social media efforts have put one extra person in a seat at one of NASCAR’s two yearly stops at the Long Pond track.
Doesn’t matter, track President Brandon Igdalsky said.
Whether the track ever proves one more dollar was spent because of social media, contests or any of the new marketing efforts it’s undertaken over the last few years, he knows he has a more engaged fan base than in the past.
“There is just no way to judge by looking at the numbers,” he said about translating Facebook likes and Twitter followers into paying customers. “We know we’re getting them. They tell us.”
Pocono Raceway has been one of NASCAR’s industry leaders in social media efforts.
The track’s Twitter page (@poconoraceway) ranks fourth for followers (39,847) among race tracks in the country, behind Daytona International Raceway (68,927), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (46,064) and Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee (41,588).
“But that’s only because they have a race this weekend,” Igdalsky said recently about the March 17 race at Bristol. “We go back and forth with them.”
Social media targeted
NASCAR officials said its tracks, as a whole, are well informed on the benefits and necessity of social media to help keep its fans informed.
The social media team at the NASCAR offices in Charlotte, N.C., said they haven’t had to do much to encourage tracks to be active on social media.
“Tracks, teams, and drivers alike have embraced social media and are continuing to dedicate resources to their social activities,” said NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps.
Last year, a NASCAR-commissioned report at public relations firm Taylor in New York City concluded “digital is the key to the future for NASCAR.”
Taylor’s 2012 survey of 1,500 avid NASCAR fans showed almost four out of five between ages of 18 and 34 use social media to experience NASCAR, according to Taylor, and that Twitter use went up 35 percent among avid fans from 2011 to 2012.
Optimizing the interaction
Earlier this year, NASCAR unveiled its “Fan and Media Engagement Center” at its headquarters “to better understand fan conversations and optimize engagement with the social community,” Phelps said.
“Stakeholders in the sport must provide a compelling mobile and social experience in order to remain relevant with these fans of the future,” said Christian Alfonsi, Taylor’s executive vice president of strategic planning.
Igdalsky said that message already was clear at Pocono Raceway, and said there is another benefit to social media: It’s free.
The only budget Pocono Raceway has in social media is for a digital media employee.
That hasn’t affected the marketing budget as a whole, which was reduced a few years ago, though that reduction had nothing to do with social media efforts.
“We saw the writing on the wall a few years back,” Igdalsky said. “We saw the direction sports properties were taking, and we wanted to be ahead of the curve when the time came, so we dove into social media.”
Igdalsky’s personal Twitter account boasts 17,094 followers, nearly as much as NASCAR host tracks like Watkins Glen International (18,009).
While many people in the sports world often hire people to Tweet for them and respond to fans, Igdalsky said that’s not his style. What you read on his Twitter page is actually him tweeting.
“No one else even has the log-in,” he said. “I love that I can sit and watch a race and talk directly with fans who are doing the same thing and we can all talk about what’s going on. It builds interest and it builds fan contact.”
That was on display during the Budweiser Shootout the day before the Daytona 500 this year. Igdalsky had just left the track while the race was still going on that Saturday night in February when a car crash injured people in the crowd.
Even though Igdalsky wasn’t there, he saw all the tweets and turned the TV on when he got back to his room.
“And I sat and went on Twitter, just like every other fan,” he said. “Social media is fun to do with the fans. It gives us that personal one-on-one interaction we really can’t get any other way. It’s important to us, and it will stay that way.”