By Ilona French
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Yelp, Pinterest…the list of social media sites seems virtually limitless—and to be competitive as a racing business, you must always stay ahead of the curve, even if that means turning to your keyboard to reach customers. “If your company isn’t already on social media, you’re missing out,” said Ainsley Jacobs from Hebron, Indiana-based Precision Turbo & Engine. “It’s free advertising for your company and one of the most effective ways to build customer relationships.”
Since Precision Turbo & Engine started using social media in 2010, the company has seen a tremendously positive response. “Sales are up, brand awareness and recognition is up, and the Precision Turbo & Engine name is constantly in front of customers’ eyes,” said Jacobs. “We’ve built and strengthened relationships with our racers and customers by sharing (literally and figuratively) in their successes and achievements, while also facilitating the way potential customers obtain information about our company and products. Overall, the decision to begin using social media has been a great experience for us.”
Which sites seem to be the most beneficial? Precision Turbo & Engine currently utilizes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. “There’s an app that lets you link your Facebook and Twitter pages, so an update from one will automatically cross-post to the other, and that helps cut back on the amount of work required to maintain accounts. You can also set your YouTube to link to Twitter, etc. There are lots of handy applications and plugins that make managing multiple platforms much less time consuming,” Jacobs said.
Ball Ground, Georgia-based Pro Line Racing uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+, with more than 7000 likes on Facebook and 2.3 million views on YouTube. “YouTube has given us the greatest amount of exposure, but I think Facebook is the most useful for communicating with clients and potential customers,” said Bud Hodge. The company shares customer achievements, photos of engines and race cars, advertisements, specials, videos, magazine articles—and basically anything that keeps people wanting more. “Facebook posts featuring high-resolution photo galleries and HD YouTube videos tend to get a lot of attention. Simple text status updates usually don’t get as much of a response, but can still be powerful.”
Although Chatsworth, California-based QMP Racing Engines is on a variety of social media sites, including Facebook, Brad Lagman believes YouTube has achieved the most visibility. “People really like the dyno videos,” he said. “People like the noise they make. It’s not hard to record it. We actually like to go around the engine when it’s running and shoot the whole thing.”
Spring Valley, Minnesota-based Deer Creek Speedway uses Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The company has over 11,800 likes on Facebook and more than 1600 followers on Twitter. “We seem to get the best response when we use Facebook,” said Justin Queensland. “It’s the most commonly used form of social media by our local fans.”
Queensland believes social media allows for access to fans “cheaper and quicker” than ever before. “It also allows us to stay in front of them more often to ensure they don’t forget about us,” he said.
The company posts everything from pictures, videos, and press releases to teasers, race results and more. “Typically, the shorter the post the better, and you have to be careful not to over post and ‘annoy’ people,” said Queensland. “Our best results are with pictures, videos or event invites. We receive little response to long posts that contain too much wording or that don’t get to the point right away; people tend to lose interest.” Deer Creek also offers occasional incentives, including giveaways, to encourage more viewer interaction.
While Vinton, Iowa-based IMCA uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, Brett Root noted that Facebook is the most popular. “Analytics show it is very popular in the dirt track world,” he said. “Other services are on the fringe.”
IMCA posts photos, videos, polls, and event hype on its social media sites, receiving the most response from photos and the least from text updates. “Text updates have proven to be a waste of our effort,” said Root. “Video is king.”
IMCA’s Facebook page has over 24,000 likes. “We’ve accomplished this exclusive of ‘purchasing’ any ‘likes,’” said Root. “Our overall reach with media and marketing partners is over 100,000.” The company attracts people to its social media sites through content and contests, as well as by encouraging feedback and responding to reasonable questions. “We are as interactive and unedited as we can be,” said Root, who believes social media has increased attention to its sanction and drivers, while engaging race fans.
“Facebook has definitely proven itself to be the most beneficial of the social media sites we currently utilize,” said Jacobs, who noted that Precision Turbo & Engine’s Facebook page has more than 67,000 likes, its Twitter page has over 3900 followers, its YouTube channel has several hundred subscribers, and the company is nearing the 1000 follower mark on Instagram. “The number of users worldwide is staggering, and the ease of communication with fans/customers really helps make it an essential piece of our day-to-day business operations. We can communicate in real-time (via the chat feature) with customers outside of the US without them having to call in or wait for an email response, offer pricing information, and, most importantly, we can build valuable customer relationships through interaction.
“Social media helps Precision move from simply a manufacturer selling some of the best turbos in racing to an enthusiast’s friend—someone they share with and communicate with, someone they have a personal relationship with and can contact easily,” she continued. “That relationship and ‘friend’ mentality is more valuable than any sort of paid advertising. Studies show that consumers usually trust their friends’ recommendations more than an ad, and word of mouth is an incredibly helpful marketing method. Social media helps to take advantage of this, and much more.”
To engage viewers, Precision Turbo & Engine has a Ride of the Month contest where customers share photos and information about their rides. Winners get a chance to be featured on the company’s Facebook page and website. “The feedback we’ve received has been very positive so far,” said Jacobs. “People really love to see their own project, their pride and joy, featured prominently by a well-respected leader in the industry. Winners (and their friends/family) usually share the link to their feature, which is great for everyone involved.”
Precision posts a wide variety of content, including product announcements, race reports, updates/news, customer car photos/dyno sheets, funny car-related photos, and more. “We generally see the largest response to unusual vehicles or a car that’s accomplished something really special/unique using our products, such as standing mile or land speed records,” said Jacobs. “High-horsepower exotics and supercars have consistently proven to be big attention getters. Additionally, we occasionally post entertaining meme photos (non-product related) and these typically yield a large response as well, often with hundreds of shares per photo. One of the reasons for this is that while those photos are often still branded as Precision, they are generic enough that many people can relate to them and find them funny enough to want to pass along to their friends. Facebook’s ‘share’ feature is an incredibly useful tool toward reaching a wider audience—not only do fans of our actual page see the post, but friends of those who share the photo (even if they are not a fan of our page) will see it, and our name as well.”
Delano, Minnesota-based Lou Fegers Racing Equipment has a Twitter feed, email newsletter and Facebook page with over 1200 likes. “We have tried several different types of posts,” said Sara Fegers. “We have offered special pricing on items through Facebook or the email newsletter. We have solicited customer feedback. We had offered a sale to customers through the email newsletter. We post basic information like holiday hours through Facebook. The Twitter feed is just linked through Facebook and the website. Frankly, we have had little to no response to anything through these attempts. The most response we had was through the sale that was offered via the email newsletter. It was for the owner’s 60th birthday, which resulted in many people calling to wish him a happy birthday, but not order anything from the sale.
“I feel that social media could be beneficial to our business,” said Fegers, “but it would require a dedicated person that solely focused on the social media marketing.”
For businesses that want to ramp up their social media marketing efforts, it’s important to ensure that customers know where to find you, which means including links to your social media accounts in all of your digital and print marketing materials. “We have links posted on our website and in our email signatures,” said Jacobs, from Precision. “That said, the easiest way to gain fans (short of running paid advertisements on the social media sites themselves) is just to get out there and start posting relevant content that will encourage people to interact with your company. Over time, as people comment/post/share/etc. with your page, their friends will see it, too, and you’ll gain momentum.”
“My advice would be to try something ‘new’ and don’t spend all of your time selling something,” said Hodge, from Pro Line. “People can sniff out a salesman from a mile away. Instead, offer your clients and potential customers engaging content, stunning photos, or just a little bit of humor to help get them through their day. When they see something they are interested in, they might share it with their friends, who could help spread the word.”
Also, if your shop relies on local business, Hodge recommends putting it on Yelp. “Hopefully your service leaves enough of a lasting impression to make your customers want to give a positive review,” he said. “If not, just ask them. Don’t let the idea of a bad review scare you from Yelp or other sites. As long as you respond professionally and you have nothing to hide, your customers will appreciate the transparency.”
“We currently are not utilizing Yelp,” said Jacobs, “but sending a follow-up email to customers several days/weeks after they have made a purchase from your company inviting them to write a review will usually do the trick. You can also include that request in the ‘thank you’ letter you send with the product package itself or on the invoice.”
Lastly, remember that interaction online via social media is similar to print and verbal communication. “Showing your customers that you care about what they do with your product after the purchase will not only strengthen their loyalty,” said Jacobs, “but can make them a cheerleader for your brand as well.”