By Aaron Waldron
Where’s Waldo is a weekly opinion column where LiveRC’s Aaron Waldron gives his take on hot-button issues within the RC industry. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LiveRC.
Among a sea of social media posts containing blurry podium photos with closed eyes; barely-literate race reports making excuses for disappointing finishes; men crouching awkwardly so as to obscure as much of their sponsors’ banner as possible; and static up-close shots of cars sitting on pit tables, kitchen counters, and carpeted floors, the newest assault on your Facebook notifications has probably been this clueless sign of self-importance:
“Midpack Racer invited you to like his page Midpack Racer RC”
Indeed, the latest way for those paying to enjoy a hobby to act more “factory” is to create a Facebook ‘Like’ page, laughably categorizing themselves as “Public Figures” or even more hilariously “Athletes” or “Sports Teams.”
RC drivers give one of a few reasons for why they chose to go this route, like wanting to keep one’s personal life and racing persona separate, but they all share one thing: a basic misunderstanding of both how social media works as well as why their sponsors want them to be active on social media in the first place. Unfortunately, the whole potential for social media to help grow the hobby depends on it.
We get it — you probably want to prevent the RC world from being able to see your unglamorous prom photo from four years ago, and you might wish to shield any of the non-RC friends you have from seeing you habitually throw a sideways peace sign or point at the person next to you because you don’t know what to do with your hands every time you ask someone to take your picture on the Sportsman 13.5 Buggy podium. However, you’ve had access to the very tools to do so for years — they’re called lists, and you can create whichever lists you’d like in addition to the defaults relating to your hometown, previous schools attended, and businesses listed on your profile. You simply create a new list, title it, and then add people to it; that way, instead of trying to manage two different accounts, you can change the audience for your latest selfie or car-fie with two thumb taps rather than a completely different mobile app. You can use this same feature to post something to just your friends, only to certain friends, excluding certain friends, or even just yourself.
Unless you work in online publishing, or at least pore over digital trends like it’s your job, you might not know just how difficult it is to capture a following by creating a new ‘Like’ page on which to share your RC news, but here are the basics: Facebook’s news feed algorithm overwhelmingly favors updates by family and friends, as well as engaging content from pages you regularly interact with, while it penalizes spammy posts from pages that take a long time to gain traction - like the boring photos you keep posting with one or two sentences and the same ten hashtags.
Suddenly, your potential audience of 3,183 Facebook friends shrank first to the 452 people you actually got to like your new page, and then down to the 67 of them to whom Facebook actually showed your post. And when you get burnt out on trying to manage two separate accounts, or forget to post something for a month or two, your page will be even further penalized in traffic rankings and may not show up to anyone at all.
To make matters worse — for your sponsors, anyway — the chance that the buying habits of any of those 67 people will be swayed by whatever you’ve posted is basically zero (unless they, too, think they can get “sponsored”) because the only people who will see these new page updates will be the ones who’ve started interacting with the new page, which means they’re already well aware of who you are and the companies that sponsor you. The whole point of companies asking the drivers they sponsor to share racing news on social media is to market to new potential customers — like racers currently using equipment from other brands, or even (and especially!) those who aren’t currently involved in RC racing.
The problem isn't the platform, it's you. If you've managed to annoy your non-RC friends and family by creating boring content, your RC friends probably aren't really engaged either. And if you're embarrassed about sharing this hobby with your non-RC friends and family, what does that say about your feelings on RC racing?
Perhaps instead of trying to be the next Adam Drake, Ty Tessmann or Jared Tebo of Facebook, focus on creating fewer, more thoughtful posts. Spare the RC world from your “here’s my car sitting on the straightaway next to my fifth-place plaque” every couple of weeks, and instead shoot a video once a month where you talk to a fellow racer about what makes this hobby so special, or about something cool you learned from a more experienced driver that you want to pass on. Ask someone to snap a candid picture of you looking totally focused on the drivers’ stand, or genuinely happy that made a last-lap pass, and tell the story of this hobby you’re passionate about that might influence someone you met in high school ten years ago to visit their local racetrack. Your RC friends will appreciate the emotion, and your non-RC friends might actually care. Everyone wins! (Well, except you - you still finished fifth.)
Social media companies like Facebook spend millions of dollars to pay programmers to maintain algorithms that boost authentic human interaction over robotic corporate shills — perhaps you, your sponsors, and the industry as a whole, will get more out of the experience if you act more like the former than the latter.