Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen are at it again, fighting for first in a new Supercars arena.
Their new battleground is social media, an extension of their existing conflicts in the real world and the virtual realm of the BP Supercars All Stars Eseries.
Social media is more important than ever for Supercars teams and drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge is to remain relevant and keep the audience engaged.
Every driver on the grid has some form of social media presence, with most holding accounts on the three key platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The full-time stars all notably remain behind Red Bull HRT co-driver Craig Lowndes, whose 470,000 total followers underline his enduring popularity and commercial clout.
Lowndes has more Facebook and Twitter followers than any of the full-timers and sits second on the Instagram tally, behind only McLaughlin.
The question of who does it best is very subjective, given – to varying extents – the content tends to reflect each driver’s personality.
Just like on the track, where results are judged on the stopwatch rather than style, the only fair way to declare a winner – or at least leader – is by the numbers.
So Race News has tallied the ‘followers’ for each current main game full-time driver across the platforms to create a ‘social media championship’ table.
It’s no surprise to see a correlation between recent results and social media following, with McLaughlin on top ahead of van Gisbergen, who is second despite not being active on Twitter.
Both are nearing 300,000 total followers and have continued to post to their preferred channels during the pandemic, mainly showcasing their online racing exploits.
In addition to using all three traditional platforms, McLaughlin was the first Supercars driver to embrace streaming platform Twitch, broadcasting a feed during his IndyCar online races and through the Supercars’ Eseries.
While Twitch’s subscription model can bring a small amount of direct revenue for a driver, McLaughlin says the primary motivator for using any social media outlet is fan engagement.
“I always go back to when I was a little kid, wanting to know what my hero Murph [Greg Murphy] was doing,” McLaughlin tells Race News.
“When I look back, I wish I could have interacted more with Murph and in some ways now, I’ve got the ability to do that [with my fans].
“I’m just trying to bring people on the journey with me. I enjoy that, I don’t want to be a [Sebastian] Vettel or someone whose life is very, very private. I want people to know what I’m like.”
FEEDING THE FANS
While some drivers employ public relations helpers or agencies for their social media, particularly when it comes to posting updates on race weekends, McLaughlin prefers to handle it himself.
He’s landed in hot water before, including being fined $5000 during his rookie season for uploading judicial camera vision, but says what to post and what not to is largely “common sense”.
McLaughlin proudly says he’s never ‘purchased’ followers, which can be done using third-party sites, but puts effort into trying to grow his audience organically.
“I’ve never had anyone to help me with it, apart from getting some graphics made. I’ve just learnt myself across the years when’s a good time to post and stuff like that,” he says.
“You get all your insights when your popular time to post is, what posts are good, sometimes videos aren’t as good as photos, or sometimes the other way around.
“Sometimes a generic update talking about watching Married at First Sight or something can be the most popular post. It changes a fair bit, but it’s all about being yourself.
“I feel like social media gives you the ability to expand into so many different markets, not just Supercars, and that’s what i’ve tried to do. It’s important, especially in times like this.”
That expansion has included picking up more followers from the USA, largely thanks to his recent starring role in IndyCar’s Eseries.
THE DARK SIDE
While social media offers the public an insight into a drivers’ life, the downside is the presence of ‘trolls’, who attack with nasty comments on posts and even direct messages.
McLaughlin has copped it more than most, with plenty of ‘fans’ – and occasionally other drivers – piling on amid the controversial 2019 season.
“I used to worry about it, but then i got to the point where I was like ’stuff it, press on’,” says McLaughlin of the negative element.
”Normally when I get trolled I take the piss or don’t say anything at all. You’re always going to get trolls. I’ve come to accept it.”
McLaughlin has even come to embrace the negative or “salty” comments, recently adding the line “salt harvester for most of the Supercars community” to his Instagram bio.
“It’s just a pisstake but it gets people going and I like doing that. It’s my page, right? So I can do what I want!” he says.
“It’s a dig at not only the Supercars community, a few select people, but also all the trolls. I just get a kick out of it.”
BEST OF THE REST
Mark Winterbottom is third in the social media standings with the following he amassed during his years as Ford’s spearhead holding strong despite a dip in results and a 2019 switch to Holden.
The 39-year-old’s accounts have a distinct family feel, with wife Renee – who has worked hard with her husband on the pages over the years – and their three children featuring.
Jamie Whincup is fourth even if the seven-time champion a relatively light user of social media and has only two-thirds of the total followers boasted by teammate van Gisbergen.
Many of Whincup’s posts appear strategic, tagging in team or personal sponsors while providing glimpses of his action-man, but not business-man, life.
Fifth-ranked Chaz Mostert is among those to engage a PR agency which creates a variety of content, including memes and viral stunts to curate his ‘quirky’ image.
Others with a reach of over 100,000 across the three platforms are Fabian Coulthard, James Courtney and David Reynolds.
Will Davison is next on the list in ninth, but no longer holds full-time driver status after 23Red Racing’s recent withdrawal.
|Shane van Gisbergen||179.8||26||91.1||296.9|
|Anton De Pasquale||11.8||1.3||31.5||44.6|
|Jack Le Brocq||15.8||2.3||13.5||31.6|
|Note: All numbers are|
TESTING THE TEAMS
In team land, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team is the clear heavyweight, with an enormous Facebook following making up the bulk of its followers across the platforms.
In fact, at just under 1.2 million the team’s Facebook page has more followers than the corresponding account for Supercars itself, which is just over 900,000.
Kelly Racing, whose accounts were labelled Nissan Motorsport prior to 2019, sits second, also with a large Facebook number.
Those two teams clearly outgun the next-best Walkinshaw Andretti United, Shell V-Power Racing and Tickford Racing accounts, thanks largely to Facebook.
The top two can attribute at least some of that success to the global nature of the Red Bull and Nissan brands, which undoubtedly attract ‘likes’ from outside the sport’s regular fan pool.
However, a look at the level of fan interaction on posts indicates the number of people actively engaging with content is far closer across the top teams than the follower numbers suggest.
It’s worth noting, too, that the insistence on using sponsor-based team names has complicated the social media game for several squads, in some cases requiring the use of multiple accounts.
Team 18 is a case in point, with the IRWIN Racing accounts listed – which were previously Preston Hire Racing – far ahead of the new-for-2020 Team 18 and Dewalt Racing pages.
|Red Bull HRT||1153.7||45.7||107||1306.4|
|Walkinshaw Andretti United||180.8||33.6||51.6||266|
|Shell V-Power Racing||167.5||24.9||60.9||253.3|
|Brad Jones Racing||34.3||13.8||13.5||61.6|
|Matt Stone Racing||8.6||0.9||7.1||16.6|
|Note: All numbers are|