Social media platforms have become a hub of activity and promotion for the three major racing codes in Australia. Twitter has ignited healthy debate, allowed tipping and news services to flourish and given the governing bodies a chance to engage with and promote to their audience.
Social media is the best marketing tool racing has and the future health of the sport heavily relies upon administrators ensuring they make the most of the present opportunity.
Horse racing is blessed with a huge number of people consistently engaging in the sport on social media and it is this ‘cyberspace’ that may well represent the future of the sport.
HRV have brilliant young ambassadors such as Blake Redden and Jason Bonnington who have used social media to help promote the sport and there’s little doubt they are getting traction with the next generation.
Horse racing loves social media … so long as the conversation is glowingly positive and pumping up the tyres of the sport and its participants. Racing does not deal with critical assessment in cyberspace - particularly in the 'Twittersphere' - and this is a mindset that must change.
Punters are racing’s customer. They are the stakeholder that turns up week in, week out and ensures the hundreds of millions of dollars that fund the sport are made available.
There are very few companies that have an opportunity to directly engage with their customers and understand the needs and desires of the people who fund the industry.
Racing needs to develop a slightly thicker skin when it comes to social media. Administrators need to understand that platforms such as Twitter provide critical feedback and assessment that can help shape and mould a sustainable product that will survive the ever-evolving wagering and sporting landscape and attract the next-generation customer.
Trainers, jockeys and stable employees are also using Twitter as a key tool for engaging with clients and airing their concerns over certain aspect of the racing industry – but it has been made abundantly clear that the latter is no longer acceptable.
"If you’re not patting us on the back then don’t go on social media" seems to be the overriding attitude of those running racing in this country.
Please turn up day in, day out and part with your hard-earned but don’t have an opinion on track condition unless it is full of praise.
We want you to spend your spare time engaging with our media assets and improving our balance sheet but don’t question how we run cobalt investigations as that isn’t good for the image of racing….
It is this type of mindset that seems to be most prominent when it comes to racing.
I believe the driving factor behind racing’s concern over social media is ‘fear’ – a fear of the unknown.
Social media has come in like a tidal wave and for those who have the smarts and knowledge it presents a huge commercial opportunity for business – and in this case racing. I call on racing to embrace social media, 'warts and all' and make the most of what is a very valuable asset to the future of the industry.