The Brock Talk

Friday, December 9, 2011

Twitter: Putting Betting Butts In Seats 140 characters at a time

Without getting into politics on a nice Friday before one of the final weekends of the Fall, but one phrase I find a bit insulting is “It is unpatriotic to criticize the President.” Forget the first amendment right of freedom of speech, I believe our government is built on a foundation strong enough to withstand challenge and at time thrive on criticism and change. That idea of improvement through criticism – I hope – also helps keep me grounded at a blogger.

With that in mind, I have to take a swipe at my alma matre, the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program in Tucson, Arizona. This week, the RTIP is hosting the 38th Annual Symposium on Racing and Gaming at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson. The symposium held this year Dec. 5-8 has been a mainstay in the racing and gaming industry since 1974 and continues today to attract the brightest and most successful leaders of our industry as both speakers and attendees.

My first exposure to the symposium came in 1979 when as a University accounting major and part-time janitor at the Student Union, I stumbled across a panel in session and sat and listened. I’ll be honest the “sitting instead of mopping” was more the catalyst than my interest in the speaker, (they were debating race-day medication then too), but it peaked my interest and the next semester I was taking Breeds and Registry Associations taught by Richard Quatlander and on my way to a career in horse racing.

I have not attended the symposium for some time now, but that has strictly been a factor of scheduling and economics. If I could be there, I would be there. I am also a RTIP Alumni Association board member so my devotion to the program should not be a question. Unless one should bring up my financial short coming as a contributing alumni, (I am a dues paying alumni association member BTW), I’m an RTIP Alum in good standing.

What has got my gander now is not the fault of the RTIP, but I just think they should be doing more to bring the industry up to speed with Social Media. There seems to be a new social website pop up around every cyber corner these days, but the two mainstays are Facebook and Twitter. Judging within the limitations of this blog, Google+ seems to be making a big run too. We’ll see.

But the two big boys are Facebook and Twitter. And oddly enough about this social media thing, the most successful sites are the easiest to use. That’s my short way of saying no race track executive or manager has any excuse as why their track and or department do not have Twitter and Facebook accounts. It's not the RTIP program that is responsible for this industry-wide resistance to technology, but they should be on the lead in the race to stamp out lousy racetrack tweets.

But the truth about the racing industry is that it is woefully behind in the social media world. And the only horse racing industry program at a major university in the world, is not helping as much as I expect. And I expect a college to lead in any progressive field – in this case social media.

RTIP program director Doug Reed does appear to be trying. In fact, the four-day symposium has by my count, five panels in which Facebook or Twitter may be addressed: Racing’s Young Guns, Managing Your Business on the Internet, Your Social Media Toolbox: What’s In It, and Social Media and the ADW: Match Made in Heaven. These are all good topics and I’m sure the speakers were interesting and informative. Again, I’m not in Tucson and didn't hear the panels.

Young guns Raj Mutti (@raj_hastingsRC) and Andrea Young (@ayounghouston) have twitter accounts among the young guns and both are active account. Young and Muttie tweeted as recent as Thursday.

But I am curious as to why no "How To Tweet" panel. I know that Twitter was specifically addressed on past panel discussions, but judging by the progress the industry has made since those discussions, those panels were ineffective. The industry has moved little in the last two years in terms of social media.

Again, I don’t mean to criticize the current speakers, moderators and topics nor those who produced the program. I’m saying, until horse racing gets twitter, facebook and to a degree now Google+, there should be a panel every year walking the executives through the doors to 2011 business.

Might I suggest a very simple panel topic for next year’s symposium: Twitter: Putting Betting Butts In Seats 140 characters at a time. And here’s your potential panelist:

Ed DeRosa, director of marketing at Bloodstock Research Information Systems, and has the twitter handle @EJXD2 among others. An astute handicapper, DeRosa has more than 2,400 followers and is among the most present on Twitter (it seems). I suspect time management is among his best assets with regard to his seemingly ever presence on twitter, but I admire his debating ability too. If one wants to learn how to engage fans on Twitter, DeRosa could have written the book regarding the topic as it relates to horse racing on twitter. He’ll question, comment and correct on twitter with the best of them.

Brian Zipse, managing editor at Horse Racing Nation website and goes by the twitter handle @Zipseatthetrack. A few years ago Zipse started his horse racing blog Zipse At The Track and built it to become one of the most popular blogs in our sport. I have yet to meet Zipse, but I feel I know him quite well through Social Media. I have seen Zipse market his blog on Facebook and Twitter until it became part of Horse Racing Nation in September 2010 when they hired him as managing editor. His success in the horse racing social media market is measurable.

Susie Blackmon, blogger and founder of #horsebiz, Blackmon (@SusieBlackmon) is also a curator and western lifestyle enthusiast in Ocala, Florida. She has more than 18,000 twitter followers and is also quite active and ahead of the curve on Google+. Blackmon’s well organized network begins with a landing page that allows users to easily choose from her nine social networks or five websites. Blackmon also markets her network with a personal touch on several social media which should somehow be the backbone of any social media campaign.

Molly Jo Rosen. Blogger, radio host and handicapper are among Rosen’s assets but her twitter ranks among the best. With nearly 2,000 followers, @mollyjorosen is another with an apparent ever presence on twitter. Maybe it’s just that she seems to tweet the most during racing – whatever – Rosen rocks and rolls on racing twitter. Rosen tweets are sometimes fun, sometimes opinionated, sometimes keen and smart. But her passion for the sport is evident in the quality and quantity of her every tweet. I’d like to hear her speak about her twitter marketing.

Penelope Miller, Social Media Director,!/NTRA. Since Miller has taken over the social media for the NTRA, the differences were swift and have been vast. No longer do NTRA tweets come 30 at-a-time two or three times a day. There is actually strategy and personal potential customer awareness that seems to make the difference between and successful and an eventually dormant twitter account.

Should I post something positive about the NTRA on the blog or find an article that may be of interest to the folks at the NTRA, I often copy @NTRA. And the most amazing thing can happen. Hill or somebody in her department respond and might even throw down that ultimate compliment in the twitter world – the RT (They retweet your tweet to their followers.) When you have just more than 2,100 followers and the NTRA has more than 6,000 twitter followers, the RT can have a very big impact on the blog and potentially additional followers on twitter.

There are a few tracks that do well on Twitter and they need to be recognized. It would not be fair to clump them among the drag-behinds that I hope read this. Remington Park under the leadership of Yanni Vance, and Canterbury Park having been effective as has Delaware Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

There are also many other who would among those quickly inducted into The Brock Talk twitter Hall of Fame. I must also disclose that I have infact, spent hours trying to update this blog to allow easier access to my accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Some of that is attributed to my very limited html knowledge. It is frustrating. But racetracks do not have that excuse – or they shouldn’t.

So I asked my old Alma Matre: Keep pounding that social media drum Mr. Reed. Keep pounding that drum please.


Candice Curtis said...

My Capstone project at last year's Symposium was about social media & horse racing, and Holly Kruse did a panel about social media, too. This is not new for the RTIP - in fact, Ed DeRosa was at the Symposium last year, too. So yes, the RTIP is trying, but I fear the message is falling on deaf ears...

Brock Sheridan said...

Thanks Candice. I really was trying to point out that there has been an effort in the past, just keep the message going until they get it.

When I was in school lots of tracks were still fighting exotic wagers.

Brian Zipse said...

Greatly appreciate the mention, Brock. Social Media, be it Twitter, Facebook, or other, is a wonderful and powerful way to reach the fans ... I know it has worked for me!

Anonymous said...

I agree Brock. The TWITTER horse racing community is an exciting and dynamic scene. It enabled me to connect with Brian Zipse and ultimately become a blogger at HorseRacingNation.


Nicholas said...

Preach on Brock. I was interested in racing, but connecting with approachable, knowledgeable people via blogs and twitter has really deepened my engagement with the sport. Living in a non-racing jurisdiction, the opportunity to connect with other racing fans has been invaluable.

Does my handle justify work from an official source, at the moment, no. That said, I'm an far more informed fan that I otherwise would be.