By T.J. Buffenbarger
Recently a track in Michigan was shut down unexpectedly after being sold. One of the reasons the track owner cited selling the facility was criticism on social media outlets were to blame for the lack of success. This is a cry I have heard increasingly over the past several years, I also believe in most cases blame that is misguided.
Recently I have seen a movement of people that feel nothing critical should ever been said about a race track, and that fans and teams (customers) should just be happy they exist. This is a sport where the objective is the win and to do so is to work at getting better as a driver or race team to do so. The same has to be done from the track and series management side. If I were to go out for a hamburger and had a less that satisfactory experience should I just be happy there is a hamburger place to go to when there are 20 other places offering the same thing down the street? That holds true in the entertainment field. There are more entertainment options than ever for families. Having a business that can’t start the program on time, finish at a reasonable hour, and have less than adequate facilities and blaming social media is not getting to the reason things are not working.
When a facility cannot provide clean facilities, start remotely close to on time, or end a program at a reasonable hour on a regular basis and in turn expect paying customers to be stratified just by your existence is not a sustainable business plan. Often times these are the same facilities that don’t update information or results until days after the event. How can you build a fan base if those customers can’t find out what happened the next morning? Can you imagine your favorite sports team taking up this practice? Often times the tracks complaining about social media also are guilty of this practice as well.
For every track I see complaining about social media I see others thriving and embracing it. The ones using this to their advantage can convey their passion and what they think is great about the sport or their facility in creative ways. I’ve seen “track selfies” being encouraged during the race night and often will flood my feeds during race night of people enjoying themselves at the races. If someone is searching for a night out in their area there is a good chance they can stumble across images like this and it might intrigue them to come.
No matter how well a facility is run there will always be customers that are not happy and will use it as an outlet to complain. If the track is well run though they generally will not have a leg to stand on and their complaint will be more of anomaly.
Asking your customers just to exist is not good enough. With entertainment options springing up everywhere the racing community needs to be more creative on how we convey what is great about the sport. There are so many things we do right on the short track level. Fans can get a nights entertainment at a reasonable cost, with reasonable concessions (or bring your own cooler/food at some facilities), and meet the “heroes” at the end of the night. Social media is another way to remind people of these things.
Instead of worrying about what customers are saying about your track, series, or racing on social media they should be focused on how they can make the racing experience at their facility for the customer. If the customer experience can continue to evolve for fan and race team then the later problem with social media is self-correcting.
Instead of convincing fans they should be happy for your existence, show them with creativity and the desire to make things better each and every race night.