Who Knew?: Track Operators Ignoring Social Media Are Their Own Worst Enemy

On Saturday the months long awaited makeup of the Tour Type Modified feature of the Turkey Derby took place at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall, N.J. 

The historic event usually held the weekend after Thanksgiving typically marks the last Tour Type Modified event of the year in the Northeast. This year the event marked the first Tour Type Modified event of the year in the Northeast thanks to COVID-19 restrictions forcing postponement of the event last November. 

With only 14 teams on hand for the event, Wall Stadium management decided to run two 50-lap features Saturday instead of the originally planned 150-lap event. Matt Hirschman went on to sweep both ends of the twin bill. 

And when it was all over it seemed the hottest topic regarding the event was not the actual race, but how so many people had no idea the event was taking place and how little coverage there was of the event before or after.

A poll on RaceDayCT Monday asked how many people knew before Saturday that the Turkey Derby Tour Type Modified feature was taking place? As of 9 pm Monday, 269 people had voted in the poll with 47.6 percent answering that they did not know before Saturday that the race was taking place.

It shines a light on a problem that plagues many short track racing facilities. 

In a world where every short track promoter should be focused on exposing their product any way they can to generate fan interest, no track operator anywhere should be missing out on the free marketing tool that today’s world of social media offers.

The Wall Stadium Speedway Facebook page is a direct connection to 16,360 people. 

And how many times did Wall Stadium management use that page to promote the Tour Type Modified event that took place Saturday? Not a single time. And not surprisingly there was no information shared on the page even after the event.

The last post on the Wall Stadium Facebook page was actually on June 16, 2020. What is apparently the Wall Stadium Speedway Twitter page was last utilized regularly in 2015. 

There’s literally no excuse for failing to use Facebook or Twitter to promote your events to current fans or potential new fans. In 2021 everyone working for a short track has a smart phone. Everyone has the ability to update social media anywhere anytime. It’s not about having staff in your office. It’s not about paying a high-priced PR firm to handle your promotions. There are no excuses in 2021 for not utilizing the free promotional tools available to everyone. 

And when a track operator ignores the free marketing options available that offer proven exposure that operator is failing the competitors that are choosing to participate at their track.

If you’re not doing all you can do to expose and sell your product to potential fans then you’re not going to create interest. And ultimately when a track operator fully abandons promoting events competitors suffer for that. Good luck being a competitor trying to sell the sport on a potential sponsor when you tell that potential sponsor that the track you compete at does nothing to promote its events. 

The 2020 season ended at the New London-Waterford the last weekend of October. Since Nov. 1, 2020 there have been 15 posts produced on the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Facebook page. 

Of those 15 posts, five were posts with messages directed at competitors at the track, four were recognizing various holidays, one recognized the passing of a longtime track official, one shared a video made by a local photographer, one promoted a Toy Drive, one was a Bernie Sanders meme and one thanked competitors and fans for attending their Smacktoberfest event. One post, on January 2, announced the release of the 2021 schedule.

That’s 15 Facebook posts made over five months since the 2020 season ended with one post actually promoting racing events that will take place at the facility, and not a single post promoting a single competitor or team that supports the track and it’s racing events. 

In comparison, Stafford Speedway has made 16 posts on Facebook in the last three days, with all of the posts directed at promoting upcoming events at the track or competitors at the facility. 

You know how much it cost Stafford Speedway to make those 16 posts promoting events and competitors over the last three days? Nothing. Not a penny. 

One third of all the social media activity by the Speedbowl management in the last five months has been posts directed at messaging its competitors. The fact is, a track’s social media outlets should rarely be used as a public bullhorn to message competitors. Social media should be used to sell the product and promote those putting on the show. You don’t see the NFL using its social media accounts to send message to its players. 

For any short track to be successful there has to be a balance struck between making competitors want to participate at your venue while making fans want to come see your product. If the focus of any track operator becomes too much on just making participating teams and drivers happy, they’re essentially creating a racing club and giving up on the sport being a public entertainment option. Do that and you’re mainly saying you have no desire in growing interest in your facility or short track racing in general. 

What only makes matters worse is there’s a huge segment of short track racing fans populating social media who will seemingly walk through fire to defend the poor business practices of the management of their favorite track when someone points out the failures of that particular facility. 

Over the last 48 hours, for every person on social media complaining about the lack of promotion of events at Wall Stadium this past weekend, it seemed there were five fans vilifying those critics as poor supporters of short track racing and offering nonsensical excuses for the failures of management.

Short track racing has reached this seemingly painful plateau in its existence where entirely too many people who are deeply involved seem to operate with the philosophy that everything surrounding the sport must be sugarcoated. Every topic, every opinion, every observation, they must be positive it seems, and if not, the Sugarcoat Police will scream that someone is hurting short track racing by shining a light on the issues at hand.

Multiple times every week I get messages from people asking me if the New London-Waterford Speedbowl will be open in 2021. 

You know what question nobody ever asks? Will Stafford Speedway be open in 2021? And why? Because they actively use social media to communicate consistently with fans.  

If spreading the word of the actual events taking place at your facility isn’t part of the big picture marketing plans you have in place then someone is really missing the boat on what operating a public entertainment facility is all about.  

Don’t blame COVID. Don’t blame staffing issues. Don’t blame finances. There are no credible excuses for not making the effort to promote your events and help promote the competitors that ensure every week during the racing season that you still have an operating racing facility. 

Comments

  1. Shawn, you just did a great job 👏 summarizing what the small track environment is facing.

    Admirable, very admirable.

    Bravo!!!!

    I’m not bragging, but for years I have been saying that the tracks have to do a better job PROMOTING. Racing used to sell itself, but now, racing is competing in the entertainment space and needs to promote itself, and present an outstanding product.

  2. 🌈🦄2020 says

    I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I would also teach those people who keep asking you if the speedbowl is opening how to navigate a website. Or FB if they prefer. They might have seen the announcement of divisional rules meetings that were held at Mohegan Sun. But then again I suppose the track could explicitly announce they are opening if they’re still not sure. Again I’m not disagreeing that they need to do better.

  3. “I’m not bragging, but” as always I will. So full of himself…………

    Great article Shawn. Just to bad someone tried to steal your thunder.

  4. speedway scene was the best advertising back in the day. I used to read it front to back as soon as I received it in the mail. We also used to get flyers mailed to us and flyers were handed out at the track about an upcoming big show. Now you need to log onto the web to find anything…. If you don’t follow a race track on facebook you miss everything….if you own a race car and are looking to race at several different race tracks – you as an owner have to look for an upcoming race – they don’t come looking for you anymore.

  5. But 🌈🦄2020 you’re missing the point!
    Fans should not have to take the extra step, the time out of their day or even the thought that it takes to go into Google and search a track’s website. Take a look at Stafford’s, Thompson’s, Thunder Road’s or the American-Canadian Tour’s Facebook pages, no doubt they will all be open, no doubt when their next events are and no doubt that they support those that support them.
    Added bonus, I didn’t have to search for it, all that information comes to me and anyone else who did the simple act of liking their page.

  6. 🌈🦄2020, I see your point, but if you desire to sell something, you must make the public aware of it. You are an avid racing, you know how to go digging for info, no matter how poorly it is presented. The casual fan, the rest of the 99.9999999999% of the population, simply does not do that. They do a Google search 🔦 and what comes up is it. For this event, Wall did a horrible job, just horrible, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

    The Wall website is terrible. They do not use Twitter. Twitter has turned out to be an extremely valuable tool in promoting and informing.

    I do not do FB… it is a cesspool of humanoids.

    Let’s hope that Wall learned from this failure.

  7. Sadly, the part of using social media to advertise is dealing with toxic comments and outright trolls. A very valuable resource, which could be truly useful for both the organizer and potential attendee can be very difficult to navigate and even expensive for the business.

    The post is free, management of the post is often not.

    I’m not talking about negative comments or complaints related to the subject of a post, like admission is too expensive or the program runs too late. I’m talking about the dog whistlers, drunken morons, deliberate spreaders of misinformation, self-promoters, and fake profile trolls.

    Many businesses have to pay a consultant, an employee, or even an entire department to respond, delete, and police comments. The platform providers usually do little or nothing when clear examples of fake or offshore bots are reported. Some motorsports organizations, like Stafford, have a social media savvy staff member or owner. Most don’t, but would do well to add a consultant or employee, but the flip side is authorizing a third party to speak for the organization and the related expense.

    Early on, Facebook used to allow comments to be turned off on a post. Does anyone know if any popular platforms still allow one-way “announcement” posts, even they aren’t free?

  8. 🌈🦄2020 wrote,

    “I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I would also teach those people who keep asking you if the speedbowl is opening how to navigate a website. ”

    But what about the times when the website sucks? Like in this case, Wall Speedway.

    The site is still calling the Turkey Derby a 150 lap event. Results are still not posted.

    THEY AREN’T EVEN TRYING.

    The Wall Stadium Speedway website is so unpopular, it does not even show up in the first several PAGES of Google results. I got to the website after trying several different searches, and then finding a referenced link elsewhere.

    WALL ISN’T EVEN TRYING.

  9. Bernie 20never says

    Sometimes I wonder if I’m following the right Speedbowl page. We’re two days from April 1st and the last five posts on their free advertising Facebook page are from:

    March 25th
    March 14th
    March 5th
    February 20th
    February 3rd
    And, January 20th if you want to go one more

    Five posts in two months in the middle of winter would be a horrible use of resources. Days before racing seasons start everywhere just seems lazy.

  10. Is Wall just mailing in the last season. I seem to remember them selling out for housing development. I am not sure the current status of Wall and whether or not it will continue to be an operating race track long into the future. Maybe they are just playing out the string, lost all motivation given they will be closing soon. I know when I worked at a company and had only a short time left I lost some motivation. Started leaving at 6 pm. Didnt go in early and would find time to take a lunch. I just didnt care as much. Just speculation on my part of course. Anyone have an update on Wall’s sale. I honestly dont follow them that closely.

  11. The Atomic Punk says

    Dareal. You are so attention starved. The fact that you try to sell not being on FB is comical….. Look at me!!….Look at me!!!!

  12. Before the season really gets in gear if you’re a new Unmuffled subscriber consider checking out the Episode 86 with Matt Buckler. He’s the interviewee however what it really ends up being is reminiscences of two of the most knowledgeable race media personalities. Sharing behind the scenes stories that are informative and outrageous at times and their assessment of the current state of racing compared to when they started.
    In the interview Matt Buckler refers to the current fan base as becoming more of a “cult” as it has shrunk. He didn’t expand on that but this is what we’re talking about isn’t it when referring to sugar coating. The smaller, more rabid fan base that claim emotional ownership to the sport and seek to protect it at all costs. Mr. Courchesne gets attacked for simply mentioning realities that the cult fan base of a track or racing series or racing personality doesn’t appreciate. People posting in the comment section attacked for not being a fan in a prescribed manner by cult members that have an emotional investment that gives them the authority to tell others how to be a fan. Or the toxic posts that purists think are gold on Facebook and Twitter.
    The cult mentality extends to Wall and the Speedbowl. Waterford had a season complete with competitors with literally three weeks notice depending on the cult fan base to show up and they did. Wall is constantly on the same bubble, the Krause family applauded by the fan base for simply having races and in no mood to be critiqued by outsiders saying the show had issues. We saw it here when an outsider was mentioned for possibly holding a Wall NWMT race without the Krause family as promoters who at the time had no lease agreement and what happened? The cult fan base rallied to them actually diminishing the likelihood of a NWMT race at Wall if there was any chance in the first place.
    It’s generational as well. Bemer has his own problems aside from being old but the Krause family is stuck in survival mode with no inclination or ability to worry about a future past the next event. Meanwhile Stafford has a younger generation that is intimately tied in with social media and the younger racers that the future is dependent upon. Mom and dad Arute the backbone of the facility but young Paul and David allowed to make some of their ideas reality and part of that is flooding social media with posts and responding to fan comments in real time as well. Never defensive or cult like but informative and courteous. Posts that spotlight the teams and drivers as well as events. A constant stream of press releases on events but heavy on driver up close profiles as well. Paul and David joined by a cadre of young, energetic social media semi pro’s including Bonsa Tuffa, Nicole LaRose and many more mixing with all the crusty oldies the sport depends on. Shop tours, the Bottom Shot Podcast, Nicole LaRose’s pit interviews all intertwined with social media with the on air personalities being younger people.
    In many ways you might consider this opinion piece relevant but an unfair fight. Comparing two tracks that live literally week to week with a track that is thinking what is necessary to survive into the next generation. Worrying about the plan for this season is over. Now they’re executing the plan and if they have time thinking about how they will resurface the track when it’s necessary.
    A better discussion and one that Shawn Courchesne touched on in his chat with Matt Buckler is the role of TV in racing. Buckler suggesting TV was the beginning of the decline for racing. Shawn hinting at the fact that pay TV may be a link to exposing more people to the sport and getting them in the gate.
    Call it anything you like, the racing fan cult, emotional investment or the sugar coating police. Those labels, Wall and the Speedbowls backward approach to social media are all the symptoms of things holding racing back. It’s the answers we’re interested in. Answers that will expand the fan base and make the racing cult of purist’s, remnants from the last century and locked into memories obsolete.
    One of the things Shawn mentioned in Episode 86 is how teams are their own worst enemy by trading convenience for self promotion by hiding their racing creations in boxes. Preventing young minds out and about from imagining the excitement of watching exotic machines and blocking the view in the paddock. You can’t change that but you can replace that exposure with TV and put it right in something most younglings carry around with them. That they can reference virtually any time including while at the track.
    What is happening with TV and racing with regard to weekly events for us is less then a year old and moving at light speed. So far it has not received the attention it deserves in my view mainly because it’s moving so quickly. Plus the fact this audience as we have seen is loaded with aging purist’s not only reluctant but in many cases hostile to the changing times. That will change. One day RaceDayCt will be doing an in depth piece on the role of TV in local racing and how it will inevitably intertwined with social media.. How it can break the cycle of dependency of tracks like Wall and Waterford that think the devoutly loyal fan base is a crutch they can lean on for survival but in some respects is holding them back.

  13. “The Wall Stadium Speedway website is so unpopular, it does not even show up in the first several PAGES of Google results. I got to the website after trying several different searches, and then finding a referenced link elsewhere. ”

    I also noticed this. I pretty good at choosing search terms that will find almost anything I’m looking for on the first page of results, often in the top five hits. Finding Wall Stadium’s
    info is harder than mining Bitcoin.

  14. CSG,
    It’s my understanding that management has communicated to some that they have recently signed a three-year lease. I can’t confirm that, no official announcement was made pertaining to that. The property owners had made an announcement a couple years back stating that the 2020 season would be the last for racing, but I think that turned out to be more or less bluster in an attempt to sway zoning officials in regards to rezoning the property for residential development.

  15. Thanks Shawn. I remember the announcement and they only had a limited amount of time left. It is certainly good news, that Wall should stay open for at least the next few years.

  16. Wall might be open a couple more years, but they better do something to let the customers know what is going on.

  17. Sounds like you forgot to mark that date on your calandar shawn . For this race was advertised as early as December 2020 . IN local newspapers and racing publications { area auto racing news] for starters . As well as websites race pro weekly and dirt digest . as far as the car count , nobody going to wreck there racecar this early in the season .We all know what happens down at wall stadium

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