My apologies for mum being the word on the Beam Baja Twitter Tracker project from last month. The project, which sent me to the Baja 1000 with Robby Gordon and his Monster Energy Trophy Truck where I Twittered updates from the clandestine off-road racing event, was a success. Or at least we think it was.

Beam Baja Twitter TrackerOur goal was to connect fans of Robby Gordon and off-road racing with (sort of) live updates from the duration of the Baja 1000, a race that typically runs 18-26 hours for the winning trucks. Run from Ensendada to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico along the Baja Peninsula, communications and race updates are usually hard to come by.

We had several of the 70-member Robby Gordon Motorsports (RGM) team equipped with satellite phones. They reported back before and after pit stops on progress, conditions, competition and so on. We monitored GPS tracking feeds from as many other drivers as we could and were able to provide fairly accurate, though not perfect, race reporting through the event.

For the record, Robby finished third. It was a proud effort though, because early troubles put him well behind the leaders. He was in 7th place with about eight hours to go but picked off several trucks in the last 200 miles.

From the best of our information and measurement gathering, we can report this:

The Beam Twitter Tracker was the only consistent and continual resource of updated race information for the duration of the event. Several other sites posted hourly updates, but were inconsistent and lacking in depth of information. The Weatherman, a CB radio feed streamed live over the Internet, offered sporadic updates, but is primarily used to radio emergency information when drivers are stranded, in accidents, etc. An early helicopter crash kept that feed on “code red” or quiet sans emergency information relays for hours.

Our coverage was noticed early on by the only other consistent source of information — a message board topic on Race-Dezert.com — and even became the topic of banter for a while. Several users pointed to our URL, told folks to go tell the people at Jim Beam how cool it was, etc. The high compliment of it all was they were quoting our Tweets, sometimes verbatim, to update their community of followers.

Some quotes (and I swear they weren’t planted and I didn’t pay them):

“This is the only feed I have found that at least gives some info.” — dez rider, Las Vegas, Nev.

“The Twitter Dude ROCKS!!! Funny as hell and very informative.” — chaser4racers, Yorba Linda, Calif.

“Tweeter Dude is the best thing to happen to this race!!! LOL” — evi, Mxl, Baja

“E-mailed Jim Beam last night and told them what a great job twitter dude has done.” — tpgn00, Highlands Ranch, Colo.

“Twitter Dude back next year? RG needs to take this guy to DAKAR!” — chaser4racers

This was all contained on a message thread with 4,540+ posts and, to date 512,000 views. So if you thought forums and message boards weren’t as attention-rich anymore, you should reconsider.

Finding numbers on how many eyeballs saw the Twitter tracker was more challenging. The RGM team had some administrative issues with their hosting service and could only supply an estimate of 8-10,000 unique visitors. Dirtnewz.com also carried the feed. They haven’t been able to get us visitor numbers to date.

And then there’s the audience on Twitter, which we know included 365 logged-in followers at race’s end (there are 416 now). I’ve emailed and phoned repeatedly to see if they might be able to provided visit statistics to the Robby Gordon page for the two days of the race, but Twitter hasn’t responded. Whether this is because they don’t care to help us or because I previously blogged about my disappointment they did nothing to promote the effort within their own community (How tough would a Twitter blog post have been, guys?) is unknown. Did I mention they haven’t responded to repeated calls and emails?

Sorry. It bugs me.

Still, we have some measurements of the conversations the program created. Our friends at Radian6, who I’ll be blogging more about in the coming weeks as I enter a more formal relationship with them in my role at Doe Anderson, volunteered to provide some top-line measurements of our Beam Baja Twitter Tracker. (Radian6 blogs here.)

Looking at the 30-Day Conversation Series image below, where the number of “posts” indicates the number of conversations across the spectrum of millions of blogs and hundreds of forums, the profiles for “Jim Beam” “Baja 1000″ and “Robby Gordon” all received impressive spikes in mentions during the week prior to and during the race. Jim Beam, showed in the red line, got a 14 post count when Q-3 earnings were announced Oct. 36. It earned 15 on two different days during the week of Baja.

30 Day Comparison - Radian6

The 14-Day Comparison below shows the aggregate of the two-week period from Nov. 2 to 16, 2007. The Baja 1000 was a topic or mention in nearly 360 blog or forum posts. Robby Gordon was mentioned or the topic of nearly 240 (2/3) of those with Jim Beam included in over 180 (more than half). By virtue of contrast, race winner Mark Post was mentioned in less than 20. The weeks prior to this time frame show an average of less than five posts per day for Jim Beam, Robby Gordon and Baja 1000, which would equate to around 70 posts. This indicates the program is responsible for more than doubling the conversation occurrence (or buzz) about Jim Beam and/or Robby Gordon.

14 Day Comparison - Radian6

And, because Richard McInnis and the gang at Radian6 know how to make a prospective client feel important, I decided to include the seven-day graphic below which shows that a certain handsome fat man, who has never driven an off-road vehicle, got a considerable more about of play in conversations about this issue than did Post, the race winner. Unbelievable.

7 Day Compare - Radian6

The pre-race video on YouTube had 5,500 total views at race’s end as well (it now has over 17,000), exposing Robby’s Jim Beam and Twitter messaging to additional consumers.

Overall, the response from Beam, Robby Gordon Motorsports, the off-road racing community and the social media trade folks who kept an eye on it (thanks to all of you who blogged about it) has been overwhelmingly positive. For the record, Jim Beam did receive one email from someone swearing off Twitter because of Beam’s involvement, but they weren’t clear on exactly why. Beam received at least one other that I know of praising the effort and I can count at least three individuals who are now following me that likley signed up for Twitter because of the Robby Gordon connection.

We are currently working on planning for next month’s Dakar Rally which will include elements of our Baja program, but change a bit because of the nature of the race. It’s an 18-day endurance race the stages of which are run while most of the U.S. is asleep, so 20 or so Tweets an hour like Baja isn’t exactly practical.

In the end, everyone seems pleased with the success of the program, even if measurement is only anecdotal. And my measurement of success? Both Beam Racing and Robby Gordon Motorsports are thinking of ways to implement microblogging technology into their entire 2008 communications thinking. I say we can raise a glass to the effort.

[tags]measurement, Beam Baja Twitter Tracker, Beam Racing, social media, Twitter, Baja 1000, Robby Gordon, Jason Falls, Twitter Tracker[/tags]

IMAGES: Twitter screen shot from RobbyGordon.com. Metrics images courtesy of Radian6.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://nickhuhn.com Nick Huhn

    You created a very cool way to reach out to fans (and customers) using the emerging microblogging platform. I’m glad Team Beam and RG are impressed, and I’m sure your innovative thoughts will be validated when they’re copied by countless others. Great job, Sir Falls!

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Gracias, Senor Nick. Appreciate the kind words.

  • http://www.desertdingo.com Jim Graham

    Hey Jason,
    Desert Dingo Racing, which ran a Class 11 VW Bug, also live-blogged and Twittered the event. We used mainstream media coverage to drive traffic to the website, and then incorporated the Twitter stream into the home page for (our rather short) duration of race.

    Sounds like we use similar techniques – in our case using satellite phones to send updates to the team member back home, who then posted to the blog and Twitter. I, too, was disappointed, because I pitched Twitter’s PR folks about including something on their blog or email update about our project, but got no response.

    For 2008, I’m going to look into a satellite-based Internet uplink and consider switching to something like Zannel, which would also allow us to upload images and video.

    Anyway, great work on this. I’d love to stay in touch and learn from your experiences.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Jim,

    Kudos to you and Desert Dingo. Great minds think alike, I guess. We’re exploring similar things for future Baja events and for Robby’s run in Dakar in January. Would love to stay in touch and share ideas.

    Sorry for not tipping a cap to your efforts earlier. We were in different classes (for the benefit of our readers, you know that) and therefore don’t focus on one another. But thanks for bringing it to our attention. I’m looking forward to exploring ways to make the off-road experience better!

  • http://www.desertdingo.com Jim Graham

    Jason,
    I think the appeal of bringing tech to off road racing, particularly in Baja California, is the challenge. No cell service, so everything relies on low bandwidth satellite networks, like Iridium or Globalstar, unless you have some Ku-band you’re not telling us about.

    I have one word for you when it comes to Desert Dingo and Baja 2008: Milstar.
    :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Jim — Good stuff. Keep me informed on the process. I’ll let you know what we learn from Dakar and the 500 in the spring that might be useful.

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