The Brock Talk

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hashtags Among Improvements Horse Racing Can Do With Twitter

Horse racing has a history of not quite catching the golden media ring of opportunity, especially when it comes to new technology. While among the most popular sports in America during the early part of the 20th century, the horse racing where-with-alls then infamously failed to embrace television. They feared television and that it would doom the sport by taking away on-track fans.

During the 1980s and 90s, casinos began to embrace new gaming technologies such a player-tracking and more importantly, player identification Horse racing lagged behind because of expense and uncertainty whether players wanted to be tracked and never seemed to catch the benefits of "frequent-flyer-wagering" like their counterparts with slots and tables.

There are other examples of failed marketing opportunities lost by horse racing executives and I’m afraid we’re seeing it again. Horse racing is not taking full advantage of social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Nearly every conventional media still in existence today, from print to network television, are supported by social media. Manufacturers, retailers and bankers, to name a few, all have large social media campaigns and marketing strategies. Octogenarian and award-winning actress Betty White was asked to host Saturday Night Live last year after a Facebook page was created, supported by her fans and recognized by SNL producer Lorne Michaels. Michaels asked White to host and the episode was the highest rated Saturday Night Live show in nearly two years.

Late Night television host Jimmy Fallon has entire segments built around Twitter and Twitter hashtags. Words or phrases proceeded by the # sign on twitter are known as hashtags. If a person tweets with the hashtag #KYDerby, for instance, that person’s tweet become available to anybody who may be searching for additional tweets regarding the Kentucky Derby. Other popular horse racing hashtags are #BC10 (Breeders’ Cup 2010), #TripleCrown, #Preakness, #BelmontStakes to name the obvious ones.

Where it appears horse racing may be missing the twitter boat, is our hesitancy to include hashtags in many of our tweets – hashtags that could significantly improve the viral networking components of these tweets.

Last week I sent out a tweet to 10 different race tracks currently running in North America asking them to tweet their favorite hashtags. Only two tracks responded and it was the two tracks most with horse racing experience on twitter would predict. Tampa Bay Downs in Florida and Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

I did receive several tweets form individuals on Twitter recommending some new and some old hashtags.

One of my all time favorite hashtags was #popsonghorses whereby tweeters could combine horse names with pop songs to create popsonghorses. For example, Pour Some Shergar On Me was one of my favorites from @SkipAway2000.

There are the star horses who have their own hashtags of course - #Blame, #TeamZenyatta and others stars from last year. Although the #UncleMo hashtag has a few tweets, nothing came up #boysattosconoava, #commatothetop, #muchomachoman, #gourmetdinner, #JPsGusto or #DialedIn. There was no hashtag for the Robert Lewis Stakes, the El Camino Real Derby nor the Fountain of Youth Stakes. There is a hashtag #fountainofyouth, but I couldn’t find any tweets mentioning horses in South Florida.

Each racetrack should tweet the hashtag for their weekly feature race or races. In fact, each track should tweet and promote their own hashtag several times per week. It is a very cost effect way to generate extra attention towards their weekly events. Although most tracks do a decent job of tweeting promotions, results and some commentary, they don’t seem to have the interest to maximize the potential of Twitter, no matter how small or large the impact on their business development and public relations relative to the almost zero cost of such an effort.

It also seems obvious to me for nearly every department at a track to have a twitter account. Similar to the Blood-Horse Publications and Daily Racing Form twitter efforts which each have several twitter accounts targeting specific segments of their target. Blood-Horse has a general twitter account, (@bloodhorse), a maiden watch (@BH_maidenWatch) twitter account, a sales update (BH_SalesUpdates) account, and @BH_RaceResults among others. Daily Racing Form has @DRF_InsidePost, @DRFDby among it's Twitter accounts and other twitter accounts.

A track racing office should tweet everything from extra races in the condition book, to morning entry run downs to overnights. Food service departments could tweet daily specials from concession stand promotions to daily menu specials in the restaurants. Even track security and parking may find Twitter as a tool to more effectively in manage traffic and parking areas.

Social media could also be used more effectively by breeding farms, auction consignors, auction companies, jockey agents and every other micro-industry found in racing.

The impact of social media may not yet be realized. Just ask the folks in Tunisia and Egypt. But it has been around long enough that horse racing should be able to benefit much more than we are. Staying at the cutting edge of even two social media like Twitter and Facebook can at times seem overwhelming, but one does not have to stay on the lead in this race. They just have to be a quite bit less further back.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Some tracks are only now getting Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The negligence of marketing departments is jaw dropping. I'd love to help with the hash tags. To be honest, I'm not really sure how hash tags work and I've never used them. I'll have to give it a shot. (@gradedstakes)