Digital Strategy – Content, Personality and Relationships

This time of year naturally prompts professional reflection and predictions. Over the holiday break, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on a 2012 Digital Strategy for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will reference everything from content to email to social media to SMS to photography to sweepstakes to gaming to mobile, and so on. It will be vast, and vast is good. The company is ready to fully embrace digital in new ways.

The metrics point in the right direction
The metrics point in the right direction

The reflection part is what determines the next step forward. It guides the guidebook. Here’s what occurred digitally this year and it revolves around three themes – content, personality and relationships. These 3 simple, but often overlooked methods point to positive results, analytics and overall metrics.

Content. I agree with the saying, content is king, but how about an amendment? Engaging, thoughtful, authentic content is king

2011 saw a big shift in the type of content IMS distributed online. Traditionally, press releases were the main focal point of the site. Towards the end of 2010, we began initiating new content, first through the IMS blog as an experiment and then into the forefront of the IMS site. If you look back on our blog, it provided some incredibly successful content case studies – Gasoline Alley Unplugged, live blogging,even a piece on a LEGO replica of IMS. It quickly illustrated a void in the online experience for our fans. Publish more content.

The incredible work of Brian Darrow
The incredible work of Brian Darrow

In ’11 we began shifting a lot of blog material directly to the main site, mixing together official press releases, news reporting (working with external writers) and informal pieces. We broadened our horizons to post more content related to our events: Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Additionally, we looked to the past and highlighted the history of IMS through photo galleries, the drivers that have raced at IMS events, and mixed that with some modern technology to enable Facebook  comments and instant sharing to your wall. One-way communication now became a dialogue. We are listening to our fans. It’s helping us gauge the type of content embraced by our visitors.

In support of the Centennial running of the Indianapolis 500, we also produced a fan focused micro site called The Greatest 33, that in many ways challenged us to pull together and generate new digital assets – bios, images, audio and video clips. This in turn, fed our main site. Overall, we leveraged content around the IMS brand as a strategy, with the end result being a new, engaging experience for our customers in the online space. In 2012, we’re actually redesigning aspects of the IMS site to help support more content for our visitors, continued two-way dialogue and the tools for us to be more responsive to the ever changing world of motorsports and entertainment.

Some key indicators that helped shape this direction – over 50% increase in overall page views, significant increase in time spent on site, and dramatic growth, reach and engagement via Facebook.

Personality. I can bore you to death my thoughts on giving technology a personality. But on the most basic level, your website should have a personality. Do corporations have personalities? Yes.

Use history or the brand to reveal a personality
Use history or the brand to reveal a personality

Adding personality into the online space was directly tied to integrating content into our online consumer experience. The content itself provided a new personality. Our content spanned a number different areas or immersive experiences and was based on current events, one of our 3 main races races or something more emotive, like history, a Q&A with an expert, live video streaming, or first person authoring. Instead of mandating the personality through static, one-way communication pages, we provided an every-changing, varied perspective on IMS, the events and it’s strong connection to motorsports and entertainment. The overall voice was controlled, but there was a new menu to choose from and the content items offered new, unexpected experiences online that encouraged feedback.

The success of this is reflected in our overall social media growth (specifically Facebook), much higher international traffic when compared to 2010 and a lower bounce rate.

Relationships. Even in the online, digital realm, success comes down to relationships. We looked within and stepped outside, to strengthen our relationships that led to stronger online partnerships, better promotion, improved sponsorship ROI, and importantly new content opportunities. Sometimes that requires a birds eye view.

Sometimes you need a fresh perspective
Sometimes you need a fresh perspective

Leveraging relationships can lead to new online traffic, especially when social media is part of the collaboration – this opens the door for a new (unique) visitor that may not know your brand. This is all easily achieved through cross-promotion, RT’s, Facebook posts, contests and shared emails. Not rocket science, but I don’t think we can ever do a good enough job at this.

Other relationships emphasized content (I’m sure you’re noticing a trend here). We stepped outside of our own world to hire some very good writers, knowledgeable about our history and types of motorsports associated with our different events. They brought a fresh perspective and a different form of credibility. This also shifted the assumed role of the IMS website to integrate current news and events into the existing platform of PR and ticket/event sales. It was a slightly different handshake with out customers.

In the digital space, we focused on improving our relationships and collaborative opportunites with NASCAR, Grand-AM, SPEED, LAT Photography, MotoGP (Dorna), and more. which resulted in, you guessed it, new content for our fans. This was a perfect compliment to our existing relationship to INDYCAR and gave our online visitors new reasons to visit us. We had up-to-date news on racing.

Compelling content added value to someone visiting the IMS website, improved our distribution through social media, and enhanced the overall messaging we communicated via email to our subscribers.

We're trying to bring fans closer to the experience
We're trying to bring fans closer to the experience

Our unique views for the IMS site are considerably higher when compared to 2010. It shows we’re on the right trajectory with content, forging partnerships and allowing the company to express itself online.

I’ve not told you anything you probably didn’t know already, or could be gleaned by simply studying the IMS website.We’re essentially using common sense, standard practices and creativity.

What I am very clearly stating, is this: we’ve barely scratched the surface. The infrastructure is there. The interest is there. And the content is there.

What does 2012 look like? That part’s a secret, but I’m very confident.

But here’s one hint. It will be all about our fans.

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