Last weekend’s Hambletonian gave us an interesting look at social media. Odd that we’re talking about social media and an 87-year-old harness race – a sport most associate with 70-something New Jersey retirees – but that’s kind of the point. This year, for the first time, the Hambletonian made a focused effort on social media to re-ignite enthusiasm for the event – harness racing’s version of the Kentucky Derby – and even for the sport itself.
Leveraging a compelling content marketing effort, blogger and traditional media outreach and social network activity including Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, the Hambletonian Society established a respectable benchmark in social. While they were at it, they may have hooked a portion of a vast new audience on harness racing in the process.
Instead of getting fed a lot of metrics from the Hambletonian team (I was one of the bloggers they outreached to for help spreading the word about the event), I decided to look at the aftermath from an analyst’s perspective. If their goal was reach and awareness, they did a nice job.
According to a basic and cursory search on NetBase, an advanced social monitoring platform, They more than doubled their online buzz from 2012 to 2013. The huge spike you see on the right side of that graph is not only larger than the previous year (the small spike to the left) but is spread out over more days.
By creating a hashtag unique to the event (#hambo13) the organization attracted a Twitter audience that produced 1,500 Tweets over a week-long period that reached 5 million timelines and had an individual reach of 927,000 people, according to Hashtracking.com. That doesn’t count related activity on Facebook, which is where I focused more of my informational efforts. (Kentuckians have a keen interest in horses and harness racing and a higher percentage of my audience there are from my home state.)
C.C. Chapman, storyteller extraordinaire, posted pictures, videos, Tweets and blog posts about the event that were not only exposing harness racing to his audience, but used as supplemental content the Hambletonian Society used to fuel its own content channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more
More importantly, I think, is the compelling content the Hambletonian folks drove themselves. The Tumblr blog chronicled the greatest moments in Hambletonian history, rolling out a moment a day for a month, amassing a modest audience on a hot social network in the process. Connecting new fans with the history and legacy of the sport and event is a nice hook.
Ultimately, social media probably didn’t drive a whole lot of people through the gates at The Meadowlands Racetrack. If it did, the number was most likely marginally incremental. But that probably wasn’t, and shouldn’t have been – in my opinion – the goal. The goal (I think) was to reinvigorate a new audience around harness racing, educate people on what The Hambletonian is and lay a foundation for future buzz, engagement and, ultimately, ticket sales and wagers.
I’d say the Hambletonian’s first effort was quite noble.
Did you hear about the race last weekend? How? Did that connection poke your curiosity to learn more or participate in conversations? Watch the race? Let us know if it did in the comments. And let us know what you think of the Hambletonian’s rookie efforts at building buzz.