Should F1 tweet social media with more respect?

 


Social media, a trending topic within the F1 community, and one that looks set to rumble on for some quite some time. In a sport at the forefront of new technology and innovation, why does it appear to be so reluctant to embrace an ever expanding and evolving media platform?

Despite the viewing figures being down - one suspects due to a reduction in free-to-air channels broadcasting the races - there probably hasn't been a time in history where more people have wanted to and been able to talk about the sport they love so much. A quick check of F1 related hashtags on a Sunday afternoon will instantly show you the level and range of the audience out there. In fact, check any time on virtually any social media channel and you'll see that there's always something happening, always something to talk about and someone to talk about it with.

As previously mentioned, teams and drivers have long cottoned onto this idea. At the end of the day it's a marketing tool. One that can very quickly become very important. The way a team or driver can, rightly or wrongly, influence how perceive them. Should you go for friendly or corporate? Somewhere in the middle? It's not easy, and if it was, we'd all be experts, right?

Tone of voice is something all businesses should strive to establish long before they enter the world of social media. Understanding your brand, your audience and purpose for entering this often crazy new universe are all essential aspects that make up your 'strategy'. Get this wrong and it could be very, very damaging. Even more so than not having a voice at all, perhaps? And maybe that's why F1 hasn't rushed to embrace this new form of media. Rush may be the wrong word, and by may, I mean is. They're way outside the 107% rule on this one, but they need to be careful.

It's an ever changing landscape, one in which different platforms serve different purposes to different audiences. With a subject matter of such size and such meaning to so many, it can't simply be a case of working on one platform. All must follow a similar, yet adaptive line. What works on Twitter may not work on another platform. Who would run these accounts? Who'd post, interact and engage with an audience crying out to share their views? There's a lot to consider before even starting work on such a project, but it's surely one that a sport of this size and nature can no longer afford to avoid?

What benefits would social media bring to the world of Formula 1? Well, in short, lots. I've already mentioned how successfully some teams and drivers - whether that's personally or professionally - have used to social to drum up support, provide fans with insights we could only dream years ago, and in truth, provide us with a new way of watching and following the fastest moving sport on the planet. In other racing series it's helped fund drivers, in other sports it's changed the way we watch and react to live events. It's instant, and that's the beauty of it. It gets people from all over the world talking to each other. A talking, knowledgeable and global fan base; surely that's what Formula 1 is striving for?

For a sport so self-involved, isn't it about time it started looking elsewhere for inspiration? Other sports, other businesses have been quicker to the start line on this one. Formula 1 is still lagging somewhere in the pits, suffering with power unit issues. Chuck a Merc engine in the back of it and let's see what happens.

Of course we don't expect every single thing to be shared online. It's an exclusive, top-end series that needs to keep some of its prestige and mystery. But to give back just a little to a fan base as fanatical as this one is surely the right thing to do. I almost most 'to be shared online for free' at the start of this paragraph and maybe I should've done (well... I have now haven't I?). Free is a not word many of us would automatically associate with F1, and therein lies a big issue. For such a commercial, business-oriented sport to showcase its product for free on a platform it clearly doesn't understand is risky, well, business.

We've probably all seen examples of giveaways, competitions and prizes that just a few years ago were unimaginable, or at the very least nigh on impossible to access. Now we can, something which teams and drivers must be commended for. The fans are and always will be key to the success of the sport, just as they are in any sport or business. At a time when free-to-air channels can't afford the rights to show live races, where double points is actually a reality and not a nightmare, where we've moved away from traditional race tracks and onto tarmac bowls; why not give something back to fans? Fans that stick by the sport, that love the sport and will do anything and everything they can to see, learn and share more.

Prices to watch races live at circuits, combined with ever-increasing subscription TV costs, means it's becoming increasingly difficult for some to stay across live events. Social media provides a free (yes, free!) platform for those in the know, those with the insight and those with the power to provide us - the long suffering and increasingly demanding fans - little pieces of information we'd never normally know. We don't need a play-by-play account of the race, but insights, stewards decisions and official press releases are all the sorts of things we would love to be closer to. Surely we want fans to be able to spread and share that information, whether it be written pieces or videos? After all, is there a more powerful tool than word-of-mouth?

I realise it's not the be all and end all, and there are numerous outlets and fans out there doing a great job in bringing us the very latest, but with planning and common sense (ahhhhh...), surely the time for change from official channels is now? I wouldn't envy the person having to deal with comments about double points, mind you.


Paul Godley 10/07/2014

Image source (and all image rights): Social Media - huffingtonpost.com

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