Social Media in Racing Is Far From Useless

The criticisms about social media's reach and ability to generate new fans are palpable, and they likely aren't going anywhere; probably because some of the shortcomings of social media are true.

It's very difficult to reach new fans through a medium like, say, twitter, and that's pretty obvious. However, I feel that's just a small part of the story: There is more to an industry's revenue stream than just filling the sales funnel with new fans, bettors, or what have you.

Although they are 33% more likely to spend money with you, supply referrals with 107% more sales, and it costs 600% more to sell something to someone new than old,  customers who have done business with you before are often forgotten. "We need new blood", the "game is too old", the "fan base is dying" are far more sexy than "I went to the track one time last month but I would go three times this month with a little push", I guess.

Social media helps bridge the marketing spend gap from that spent on new versus old, and it doesn't cost very much money at all. Racing has a huge edge in getting that one time user to go three hundred percent more, and spend money with you.

Whereas there are 60 or 70 players and coaches on a football team tweeting or chatting on Facebook, there are literally thousands upon thousands of jocks, drivers, trainers, owners and back-end support (vets etc), doing the same for horse racing. It is one of, if not the most, labor intensive sports on the earth.Go to SM on a Saturday afternoon - they are there, tweeting their upcoming drives or rides, chatting about a horse in their barn on the Derby trail, or posting pictures and thoughts.

And we have not even touched the revenue driver for the industry: The gambling part of it.

That synergy of information, opinion, is alive and well and formidable on SM.

You may be saying "so what, these people are all talking to each other. How does that grow anything?"

It grows it, I believe, in a couple of ways.

Engagement: There are 24 hours in a day, only a few of which are reserved for free time. We can spend that fighting traffic on the 401 to go golfing, spend it with the kids, watch some football, or take in the Grammy's. It's a dog eat dog world for our free time in this day and age. When we follow people on twitter or facebook who like racing, it keeps us interested in racing.

Cross-promotion: You are a harness fan and 'those' runners a) don't run often enough b) are too complicated to figure out when they run 54 distances on three surfaces and c) you are a harness guy or gal, so who cares.

Conversely, you are a thoroughbred fan and 'those' harness types are jugheads; pleeezzze!

But on SM you follow some harness fans and you follow some thoroughbred fans, too.

The harness player might see people talking about the Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth. Instead of flipping on "My 400 Pound Pet Walrus", "Here Comes Honey Boo Hoo" or whatever reality show is on TLC at the moment, you decide to turn on the race. You begin to learn the Kentucky Derby prep horses. A percentage of you follow the series right through to Derby Day. You've never done that before, but now you do. "Hey, I am going to watch that Cairo horse through the trail. he was wide and won easily". This "cross fan" is a new fan.

Being a harness and thoroughbred dude both on SM, I see this alot. The TVG Championship was watched on my SM feed as much as any harness race I've seen. Cold hard thoroughbred players were commenting on it and they got to see nine year old warhorse Foiled Again prevail to go over $6M in career earnings. They at the very least learned something, and might watch his next stakes final. A few years ago I asked a couple of thoroughbred fans which horse they knew most in harness racing and they said "See You At Peelers". She was going for 16 in a row and was being talked about by harness fans on the medium.

This happens on a daily basis.

There are thousands of casual racefans on twitter and facebook, or on chat boards. Those racefans, just like a "new" customer are doing different things in their daily life. Using social media to increase their interest in the game - to watch or play it more frequently - can help them move up the consumption curve. They probably don't like Honey Boo Hoo anyway.

Gaining market share as a "sport" is hard. Horse racing is not really a sport, per se, and there are hundreds of other sports to compete with. Gaining market share by increasing casual fan engagement in your sport is an easier and more cost-effective way to increase sales and viewership. Social media helps that immensely, in my opinion, and it's an arrow in the marketing quiver that should not be ignored by marketing departments.


Anonymous said...

"Social media helps bridge the marketing spend gap"

Do you have any data that suggests this is true? That SM works?

Seems all this stuff on the benefits of SM are mostly anecdotal and I'm not quite sure this SM activity does not come without a cost or "spend", as individuals are being hired as "social media experts"

While racing marketing departments are obsessed with trending on twitter, your screen grab of ABR's tweet fascinates me. Beyond Cairo Prince trending, I couldn't tell you what the other 9 trends are. I have no idea what they mean and what the context is.

Just seems to me that all this SM activity is mostly stabbing in the dark with the benefit of not having to be held to results or performance standards. Just another play pen to waste time and money.

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi Anon,

Remember what the context is on SM spend. Forty years ago you could ask J and J why they spent $7M on TV ads. TV ads were unmeasurable. They had no idea what the advertising did for them.

There are tools in the business which can help give you a return on ad spend number for SM spend, but they are notoriously problematic. From my experience, SM spend has to be looked at as a spoke in the wheel, like most marketing spend.

What value is it to a business to have a customer service call at a bank within 45 seconds? One won't know.

With SM you have answers to questions in real time. There are FAQ's built as a result of SM questons, and that increases customer goodwill.

It's a cost of doing business now, and if you are not using it wisely, you are falling further and further behind, imo.


Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago TVG deep sixed their message board because so many posters used it to beat up on TVG. Now they have a "Social Media" heading on their site with Facebook and Twitter links below it. Twinspires doesn't do social media. And most tracks ignore it.
TVG has no interest in carrying on a dialogue with their customers; they simply want to disseminate information that may improve their bottom line. Hoosier Park is an example of a track that takes a similar approach. None of them have any interest in processing feedback from their customers and making appropriate changes. That could get messy and expensive.
The Meadowlands is the best of the bunch when it comes to interacting with the bettors on Twitter etc. At least they seem to have an inkling that what they get back can be just as beneficial as what they send out.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of your points on social media in racing. I want to voice concern an issue which the Meadowlands drivers engage in. On Twitter accounts it seems some drivers are frequently expressing their opinions on their chances on selected races at selected times. The only way many fans become aware of this is if the Big M television crew chooses to share it on their feed. I dismiss the notion that anyone can get Twitter and subscribe to get feeds from these drivers. My concern is that you have drivers communicating information through unofficial channels to select people creating an unfair advantage for some. This is the functional equivilant of a driver speaking over the fence to a select group of patrons in one area of the apron saying he likes his chances and passing another group of patrons and remaining silent. Drivers, trainers, vets, etc. were and should still be forbidden from communicating material information outside official channels of the raceway.


Carryovers Provide Big Reach and an Immediate Return

Sinking marketing money directly into the horseplayer by seeding pools is effective, in both theory and practice In Ontario and elsewher...