News & Media


Keselowski finds social media to be balancing act

May 09, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com



Keselowski finds social media to be balancing act
Keselowski sees social media as the yin and yang of interacting with racing fans

The iconic image of the 2012 Daytona 500 wasn't the tandem racing, or Matt Kenseth's Victory Lane celebration, or even the omnipresent umbrellas.

It was Brad Keselowski, tweeting from his car while the jet dryer burned.

"The only real boundary I think I have on Twitter -- or on any social media -- is just not be a jerk. "

--BRAD KESELOWSKI

If you could point to a specific instance where social media has become intertwined with NASCAR, that might be it. It's common knowledge that drivers communicate regularly through Twitter and Facebook, but to actually see it happening live was almost a revelation.

And it was completely spontaneous, according to Keselowski.

"I get a kick out of people who tell me, 'Man, you had that all planned out! Did you know that was going to happen?' " he said.

"Hell, no, I didn't know that was going to happen. I did not enter the race thinking, 'I bet Juan Pablo's going to run into the back of a jet dryer, cause an explosion on national TV and NASCAR will park every one of us on the backstretch where none of us have any access for an hour and a half.'

"Clearly I did not have that prediction. If I did, I would not have used it on Twitter. I would have used it at the local sports book and made my millions."

The sport has undergone radical changes over its existence. Instead of ropes, drivers use six-point safety belts. This year, electronic fuel injection has replaced the tried and true carburetor. And it's no surprise that communication would also take a leap forward, from messages scribbled in chalk on pit boards to two-way radios -- and iPhones.

But with the increasing ability to reach out and respond to the fans through social media, drivers find themselves straddling a not-always-clear line of what's within the boundaries of safe conversation and what will get them in hot water.

For example, Denny Hamlin found himself $50,000 poorer when NASCAR officials took a dim view of his opinions on Twitter about race management. And Kasey Kahne raised more than a few hackles after what he thought was an innocent comment about seeing a woman breastfeeding in a grocery store.

"That's a life lesson there," Keselowski said.

Always plugged in


Brad Keselowski has dominated the headlines about social media prowess with his explosion on the scene in 2012.

So how does Keselowski deal with being a public persona on social media -- and the perks and pitfalls that come with the attention?

"I think you can be yourself. Just don't be a jerk," Keselowski said. "I didn't think what Denny said was that big of a deal. I'm sure he lost a little bit of money, but that comes and goes. I think it's more important to be credible and authentic about the way you think and feel about things.

"The only real boundary I think I have on Twitter -- or on any social media -- is just not be a jerk. Obviously, you've got to think about some of the sponsorship stuff you have, but that all goes back to treating others like you'd want to be treated."

That sounds easy, but consider that Keselowski is not only representing himself, but his team, his sponsor and the sport. That's a lot of hats to wear when you only have 140 characters to put your point across.

Has he ever been told what to say, or even more importantly, what not to say?

"Yeah, but I don't listen," Keselowski said.

But he does listen to the fans. With over 250,000 followers on Twitter -- many of those as a result of the exposure he received during the 500 -- Keselowski realizes there's a lot of folks who want to know what he's feeling and thinking, because "Twitter is my fan club."

Even so, that requires balance. While Keselowski understands the need for fans to want to feel connected with their favorite driver at the track, his primary job each weekend is to drive the car and win races.

"When I'm at the race track and we're practicing or getting ready to qualify, or it's just before the start of the race, I'm not a friendly guy," Keselowski said. "I'm not there to be friendly. It's just the way it is, man. I can't do my job and be a friendly guy. I could put on the fake smile if I want, but that's not real; I'm not going to do it.

"So I also understand that in order for the sport to be healthy, it's going to require fans and a respectful attitude towards them. So that's in direct conflict with what it takes to be -- in my eyes -- a great race car driver who can get in the car and not give a damn about what anybody else thinks."

And that's where being on Twitter, or Facebook, or the next advance in social media allows Keselowski to achieve both objectives.

"Social media is kind of the yin to the yang," Keselowski said. "It balances it back out. For that reason, I think it's important for me to communicate about the way I feel about things and also engage a group of fans, followers, whatever you want to call them.

"I'm not going to say every follower I have is a fan of mine. But it gives me a way to engage them in a way I think they deserve."

And that means not letting negative comments adversely affect you. Or on the other hand, getting too cocky from the compliments.

"The truth lies somewhere in between," Keselowski said. "There are people on there who will tell you the 'you're the greatest' and you try to take the compliments in stride. That's great.

"And there's people in there that -- no matter what you do -- will point out every flaw they can find. And I try to live right in the middle."

Keselowski's prowess with social media hasn't gone unnoticed. After winning at Talladega on Sunday, team owner Roger Penske even commented on it in the post-race interview.

"Obviously he's gained a lot of fans with his tweeting at Daytona," Penske said. "I think he'll do a lot of tweeting tonight, I'm sure."