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Joe Gibbs Racing Reaching New Heights on Social Media Thanks to People-First Approach

Joe Gibbs Racing recently hit a big milestone on YouTube, and has enjoyed overall growth throughout its entire social media portfolio.


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Last month, Joe Gibbs Racing became the first NASCAR race team to eclipse the 100,000 subscriber mark on the YouTube platform. The prolific race team, which is usually tasked with hanging race win banners, had to shift gears and instead figure out what to do with their prestigious social media award, the silver YouTube Play Button.

Boris Cook, the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) for Joe Gibbs Racing was kind enough to take time out to speak to Racing America about the latest accomplishment as well as the overall social media prowess displayed by the race team in multiple different facets and platforms.

Cook says that internally, Joe Gibbs Racing had the 100,000 YouTube subscriber mark circled on the board, and in the end they were able to achieve it by the date they had originally hoped.

"Well, I mean, we're very proud of it. We had set a specific goal last year to reach that number. And we were able to do it within the time frame that we gave ourselves of a year," Cook explained. "It means a lot."

While the goal was met, it was a dramtic shift in the approach for Joe Gibbs Racing on YouTube, and social media as a whole, that helped them reach the finish line on 100k subscribers.

"It is a proof of concept where our team has taken an approach to where we're trying to be more about focusing on the people behind the scenes and the processes that go into their jobs and all of that. It's really resonated with the fans," Cook said.

While showcasing the people within the team on social media may not sound like such a foreign concept on the surface, when you understand the lineage of the JGR team, you can start to see how this was a revolutionary change of pace.

The goal for Joe Gibbs Racing from its inception until recent years was to go as fast as possible on the track, and that if things didn't help them go fast on the track, they would get put on the backburner. Famously, the team didn't even have a welcome sign out in front of its race shop for a decade after it opened, because as Team President Dave Alpern explained in a video on his own viral TikTok account, it didn't make the car go fast.

When social media first became a thing, JGR's presence was all about what transpired on the track, and how the teams finished from week to week. It makes sense, but it's a very inside the box way of running your social media channels.

The team, which by the way now has a welcome sign out in front of its Huntersville, NC-based race shop, focuses more on telling the story of the people that work on the team these days. The pit crew members, the hauler drivers, heck, Cook even had his own feature on YouTube for a while, where he would teach fans how to draw Joe Gibbs Racing race cars.

"That's just a proof of concept and it feels pretty good to be able to put our people out in the forefront and explain what they're doing with their jobs as far as the people that work on the cars and at the shop," Cook said. "So, yeah, it's exciting."

Not only does telling the story about the people on the team help the fans get to know the organization on a whole new level, the folks within the team itself actually learn key details about one another's lives when the social media team gets to digging around, as ws the case with one of Cook's favorite pieces of video content they've ever produced.

"I'll tell you one of them that first pops into my mind. It's the story that we did about one of our Jackmen on the race cars. He was growing out his hair long. He came on the team and he had about, I would say it was past his shoulder length, straight hair. It certainly stood out on the team," Cook recalled. "We got to asking him about it because one week he came in and it was completely buzzed off, so we asked him about it and discovered that he was growing it out for his sister who has Alopecia."

Cook continued, "It's one of these things where if the social team wasn't down there documenting what the pit crew is going through and capturing what's happening in practice, we wouldn't have noticed that. And we found this awesome story that we created a video around. Showed pictures of he and his sister, of course, we asked the pit crew member and got him involved and he loved the idea and we shared the story and it of course did very well on social media. It resonated with a wide variety of people."

That's when the people-first strategy really cemented itself in Cook's mind as it pertains to the Joe Gibbs Racing team.

"Ultimately, we're talking about the people because that's what makes each individual race team unique and special is its folks, its people," Cook stated.

Focusing on the people is important, no doubt, and Cook happens to be one of those people. This month, Cook celebrates his 15th year of employment with JGR. Back in April 2009, as social media was still in its infancy, Joe Gibbs Racing felt the need to get itself out there. They landed on Cook as the man for the newly created "Digital Marketing Director" job.

For Cook, who has always been a race fan at heart, the opportunity was a dream come true.

"First of all, it was and still is a dream job because I grew up loving racing out of Florida. When I graduated high school, I came straight up here to North Carolina and started basically building a portfolio," Cook explained. "I've always been a creative person. In fact, my degree from UNCC is in fine arts. But I've always loved racing. I've loved talking about it."

Cook vividly remembers in his younger years firing up the old Papyrus NASCAR Racing simulator games on his PC and racing against real-world drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Hank Parker Jr., whom he would go on to create a website for.

A few short years later, Cook was employed by the same organization that Hamlin was driving for. Racing is a wild sport, sometimes. At first, Cook felt that the dream opportunity with JGR was possibly a little too good to be true. He certainly didn't expect to go on a 15-year run.

"I had no idea how long it would last," Cook laughed. "I remember telling my neighbor who was one of the first people I was excitedly able to tell about the job. I told him, 'Hey, this might just be a year gig and I'm dipping my toe in and they're just testing out this weird new social media thing.' And that's all it was then. I got to live the dream for a year and thankfully, it lasted longer than that."

While Cook is thankful that Joe Gibbs Racing kept his dream going, at the same token, the team must feel thankful to have cultivated such a talented Social Media Manager, now Chief Digital Officer.

In the beginning, Cook was running the show solo. That's no longer the case.

"Well, a lot goes into it and I certainly can't take credit for it," Cook says of the constant churning out of social media content by the team these days. "I mean, we have a team of six under me and, they're definitely at this point the boots on the ground making it happen. It was a one-person band for the first few years and then, thankfully, as social media started to become big business and important to the bottom line of the company and to our partners, we started growing."

While Cook has seen just about everything during his stay atop the social media perch for Joe Gibbs Racing, he still suffers from the curse that all content creators suffer from -- not knowing what things will go viral or simply why certain things go viral. Cook, like most of us, has spent hours pouring his heart into a piece of content, only for it to flop. And then, on the flip side, he's seen a near-throwaway cellphone video rocket to the top of their channels.

"I'm thinking about Daytona, I think it was, it was the vacuum truck that cleans up the speedy dry and whatnot. We [filmed] that making a u-turn on pit road and it was just kind of the shot that our team member got. And it was just like, 'Ok, we see it every week,' for the most part. We posted it up there and it was one of our leading posts of the week. That just tells me that you can't predict who's gonna see it and what they're gonna think. My team is at every race and we're here in the shop and we get used to things, but we have to remember we have the coolest jobs in the world. Things that we take for granted, we can't put them in the played album. We can't. We can't say that they've been overdone. We just have to keep telling our story and trust that people are gonna wanna see it."

And it's not just Cook, JGR's content strategist Reece Kennedy recalls a reel that the team posted to Facebook of the team's various ways of cooling down equipment and employees at Circuit of the Americas, which surprised and recorded more than 5 million views in a couple of days.

"I thought it was garbage, but posted it anyway," Kennedy explained.

Remember, one person's garbage is another person's treasure. That adage is surely true on social media.

As Joe Gibbs Racing forges forward on social media, its seven-person all-star social media team, led by Cook, is heading down its path with the core race fan in mind. The team has even unveiled a new text messaging initiative (try it out by texting 704-997-1547), where fans can message the team, and the team will answer any questions, or provide specific content that fans may want to the best of its abilities. But don't worry, the texting will not slow the social media juggernaut that is JGR.

"We're still full steam ahead on social as we have been," Cook said. "But also trying to understand that like when I was a kid, if Joe Gibbs Racing sent me a text message or direct message or whatever, that would have made my year. I would have flipped out and loved it. And so that dynamic still exists. How can we just keep people, our fans, and whatnot at the forefront of our priorities, and really we're focusing a lot on that with text messaging right now. The goal there is just to overload fans with value."

And what Cook and his team have realized is that the text message conversations with the fans have actually turned into more of what Twitter was in its original form back when Cook first took over the JGR Social Media Ship.

"You know, we literally will have somebody getting a message from one person that's looking for a picture of Denny Hamlin's pit stall before the race and we'll be able to send that to them. It really feels like old school Twitter did when I first started where you're really diving in a one-on-one experience."

Sure, race cars are cool, and without a doubt important in NASCAR. But without people building the race cars, and taking them to the track, we have no sport. And without people consuming the sport as fans, we have no reason for the sport to continue.

Joe Gibbs Racing has developed a deep understanding of this, and it's the main reason the race team has enjoyed so much success on social media.

Follow Joe Gibbs Racing on its plethora of social media channels from the links below:

Facebook: JoeGibbsRacing
Instagram: @JoeGibbsRacing
TikTok: @Joe.Gibbs.Racing
X: @JoeGibbsRacing
YouTube: Joe Gibbs Racing

Photo Credit: Joe Gibbs Racing

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