NASCAR racer Brad Keselowski Tweeted during a crash delay of the Daytona 500 this week, giving fans an inside peek at the race, netting an additional 100,000 Followers and generating a surge in social media attention for the sport of racing.
Interestingly enough, NASCAR is one of the few sports that is encouraging its participants to take to social media to interact with fans; connect and encourage participation. In the NBA and NFL players are banned from Tweeting during games, and cautioned against using social media even in their off hours. In this way NASCAR is bucking the trend and making good use of the world's most powerful communication tool.
Keselowski took advantage of the break during Monday's race to Tweet. He interacted with fans, answered questions and chatted about what he was doing while he waited. One man, one smartphone, one social media tool, and he reaped nearly as much social media attention during the one hour interlude as the Super Bowl LXVI Social Media Center accomplished with an army of volunteer social media managers.
NASCAR is praising Keselowski for his use of social media and for bridging the gap between racers and fans. They are glad for the attention he brought (and continues to bring) to his sport and they are encouraging other racers to do the same.
However, and here's the rub, how will they react if a racer complains about track conditions, the fairness of the rules or the way they are treated by NASCAR? That's the true test of social media willingness. Everybody wants, needs and appreciates good publicity, regardless of whether it comes through social media or the traditional print media. But the power of social media to promote can also be used to deride, and that's usually where brands draw a line.
For now, Keselowski is a NASCAR publicity hero. Good for him and good for NASCAR! But I am more curious to see how they react when they have someone Tweet something negative, and pick up 100,000 Followers for it.