When your customers are already fans of your business, how do you turn them into fans online, too? How do you turn your offline brand loyalists into your online brand advocates?
The Kansas Speedway has figured out the solution, thanks in large part to their Marketing Coordinator, Cassie Hutchison. She’s only been with the Speedway for 2 years, but Cassie’s background in Communication gave her an edge in engaging with fans in real time on race day. During the last 2 years, the Speedway’s Twitter following has grown 40% to nearly 40,000, its Facebook fans have doubled to 119,000, and its Instagram following has tripled to over 7,500. The Kansas Speedway engages die-hard racing fans and non-fans alike. How have they cracked the code?
I sat down with Cassie and asked her: What’s the secret to your engagement and growth in social media? Is it just about being a brand with a fiercely loyal following, or is there more to it than that? In addition to learning a bit about racing, I learned a few things I think fellow social media pros can take away from this conversation. Below are 8 tips for increasing your business’s online following:
1. Fill your calendar with consistent, fun events. Cassie pre-plans her social media schedule for the whole month (I was admittedly jealous). Every week, they do a stat, a “guess who” contest, Throwback Thursday, and polls. “People love to give their opinion!” she says. “Then someone else always comments on THAT, too.”
2. Engage with other brands for a little boost in online conversation. Having conversations with fans is a big part of Cassie’s job – from customer service to event promotion to behind-the-scenes fun. But the Speedway also supports its neighbors, Sporting Kansas City, when it holds games or events, and it returns the favor! “We know the company’s PR department well. They’ll send players over for races, and we had a driver go out to their training.”
Cassie also ties the Speedway’s online content into local current events, like when the Royals were in the playoffs. She admits that not all racing fans got the “That’s what speed do” meme she made (a rather perfect tie-in with the company’s own brand), but it engaged a few Royals fans who maybe hadn’t followed the Speedway before.
But the crossover promo that most impressed me was this: Cassie’s in charge of finding genuine ways to bring sponsors to the front of the conversation, especially online. Sponsors usually get a certain number of tweets per year or per race weekend, but rather than a perfunctory “Thanks to our sponsors…” tweet, she tries as hard to garner engagement on those tweets as with the rest of her content. “Make it a question or ask for photos: What are you picking up at Hyvee for race weekend? Send us your pics of Coke or Gatorade at your tailgate.”
3. Merge online and offline to give fans the fullest experiences. The company hosts a tweetup every race weekend, during which fans who follow the Speedway on Twitter can meet a special guest or driver in real life (IRL). Usually the media shows up alongside the hardcore Twitter fans. At one event, Landon Castle had a spontaneous planking competition, which his sponsor, Snap Fitness, probably got a big kick out of.
4. Offer your fans stuff they can’t buy anywhere. The Speedway offers followers things signed by superstar drivers and exclusive experiences for only a handful of fans, and you can only win (or find out if you won) if you follow them on Twitter.
As a bonus, most of the superstars in the racing world have followings that Cassie can tap into to help promote giveaways and extend the reach of campaigns, too. “I feel like NASCAR fans are on Twitter. A lot of people follow [Dale Earnhardt] Jr.”
5. Track multiple metrics. Like many social media practitioners, she doesn’t put much stock in follower counts. “Reaching 100,000 [Facebook fans] was great. We gave away race passes to get there. Daytona’s getting close to 1 million followers, but a lot of times, they get less engagement. They don’t live tweet.”
She watches other tracks as well as her own for things like reach and engagement with Adobe tools. She can tie promo codes shared through social back to ticket sales, but that’s not the biggest use of their channel. With her PR degree, she’s mostly out to make people’s experience better so that they’ll come back and tell their friends. On race days, she pre-schedules 8 pages of tweets before she live tweets a single thing; content includes gate information, parking help, and sponsor shout outs.
The biggest task the day of? Answering tweets! Cassie does get a little help on game day from a local agency that helps respond to questions based on a list of FAQ she gives them beforehand (this is also a good tip for fellow event marketers).
6. It’s ok to mess up a bit – have fun with it! Cassie had scheduled a tweet for one of the races to “Be courteous to the fans around you,” But, instead of typing courteous, she’d typed curious. Her fans had fun with it and probably met someone new sitting nearby.
7. Don’t just tell stories – ask for your fans’ stories. The Kansas Speedway ran a #KSselfie promotion with “selfie station” stickers on the ground around the track, so when fans take a selfie from above, the sticker appears in the background. Cassie admits that she feels lucky to have a great customer service team, and most stories and feedback she receives are usually positive. That can make a big difference on race day.
8. Nothing replaces authenticity. Cassie’s been a racing fan her whole life. Even as one of the youngest and newest members of the Speedway staff, her colleagues often ask her about drivers, races, and insider terminology. When she’s out and about with friends, they often catch her checking her social profiles. She confesses, “I live it and I love it.”
Thanks to Cassie and the entire Kansas Speedway team for a peek into the driver’s seat! Check out the Kansas Speedway on Twitter or Facebook to see what they’re up to now.