10 Simple Ways for F1 to Improve Its Social Media for Fans
Formula One, it is fair to say, is yet to master the art of social media.
Although some members of the F1's Twitter community, such as the Lotus team, have done a (mostly) fine job of bringing humour to a sport that is widely considered sterile, there is still a long way to go before F1 becomes prominent in cyberspace.
Some of those steps are as simple as signing up for a popular social media website, while others require the production of technology to provide the best possible service for its fans to ensure F1 remains in their consciousness outside the 19-race calendar.
Here are 10 ways for F1 to improve its presence on social media for its supporters.
Get the World Champion on Board
If Formula One is serious about making its mark on social media, it needs to be led from the front.
And although Sebastian Vettel has spent very little time at the front on track in 2014, he remains one of the most recognisable faces in the sport.
And it's not just Vettel's astronomical success on the circuit that would make him a perfect addition to the Twittersphere.
The four-time world champion has a reputation for being the most quick-witted driver on the current grid—and it would be fascinating to see how that humour would translate to 140 characters.
It's surprising that an organisation as media savvy as Red Bull are yet to take advantage of this.
Kimi Wouldn't Be a Bad Addition Either
Not only would Kimi Raikkonen, like Vettel, be another A-list addition to Formula One's online community, he would approach social media with a totally different style to his peers.
Just one of the several fake Kimi Twitter accounts has almost 250,000 followers to its name, despite failing to post a thing since January 2012—so you can imagine just how big an audience the man himself, complete with a blue tick, would attract.
Like Vettel's humour, it would be interesting to see how Raikkonen's "Iceman" personality would manifest itself on Twitter.
But given his response when asked about social media ahead of last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, that day is a long way away.
Follow the World Cup's Lead
If you've logged on to Twitter at any time over the last fortnight, you might have noticed that the 2014 FIFA World Cup is currently taking place in Brazil.
Actually, scrap that—you will have noticed.
The World Cup, even if you have little or no interest in football, has been unavoidable, with Twitter featuring a section for the tournament on your home page.
Click on a particular match and you'll be taken to a list featuring tweets by notable figures, such as players, officials and journalists, while being advised whom to follow to broaden your knowledge.
It's a forceful, in-your-face ploy that Formula One could benefit from.
With the World Cup only occurring every four years, though, there are perhaps too many races on the calendar for F1 to toe the line between generating interest and producing boredom.
However, jewel-in-the-crown events like the Monaco Grand Prix—as well as selected other races such as the curtain raiser and the season finale—would undoubtedly gain extra publicity through this method.
Utilise the F1 Twitter Account
Some of you may be among the 837,000 people who follow the official Formula One Twitter account.
Others, meanwhile, will have no idea that it even exists—but they're not missing much.
The sport's Twitter profile is effectively a dumping ground for newly published articles on its official website, where you can learn vital bits of information like just how nervous Adrian Sutil was on his first day of school.
Unlike the accounts of teams—who often make the gesture of following their fans—the official F1 account follows only the profile for verified accounts, reflecting the elitist, distanced nature of the sport.
It is a missed opportunity, and it would only take some fan interaction, interesting stats, images, short video clips and a few hashtag polls for "Driver of the Day" or "Overtake of the Race" for it to become a credible platform for Formula One.
But don't bank on it.
MotoGP, Formula One's two-wheeled equivalent, recently celebrated reaching seven million "likes" on Facebook, thanking fans by changing its cover photo and offering a full re-run of a classic race.
F1, in contrast, doesn't even have a Facebook page—and probably wouldn't even acknowledge reaching a milestone, never mind having the decency to show the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, for example, from lights to flag.
If we are to presume that F1 is more popular than MotoGP, which it arguably is, the former would gain far in excess of seven million fans.
But it just doesn't seem to want to stretch out and give something back to those who pay to watch its product at the circuit or on television.
YouTube undoubtedly holds the greatest potential for Formula One where social media is concerned.
The vast majority of F1-related videos on the website, particularly those featuring FOM footage, are almost instantly removed on copyright grounds—so the only way for the suits to avoid that hassle, you'd imagine, is to create an official F1 channel and upload clips so the public doesn't have to.
Qualifying and race highlights and exclusive interviews are the most obvious features to be included on a YouTube channel.
Classic race re-runs or highlights, technical explanations and live feeds of press conferences could also become available.
And other innovations such as live race feeds and the option to ride onboard live with any driver via the T-cam or even a helmet cam—as IndyCar has embraced, above—could finally become realities.
The possibilities are almost endless for F1 on YouTube.
Teams Should Tweet More During Races
It seems simple to think that the more someone tweets, the bigger an audience they will attract.
And that is only increased during peak times, when whatever they're tweeting about is in vogue.
For Formula One teams, that peak time is race day—but very few of them extract the most from grands prix.
According to a graphic produced by Twitter's F1 Broadcasting, Force India and Williams were the most successful teams in cyberspace during the Austrian Grand Prix, having tweeted on 36 and 33 occasions, respectively, in the two-and-a-half hour race period.
Force India earned an average of 83 retweets and/or favourites for each of their tweets during the studied period, while Williams had an average of 89—a number only bettered by the Mercedes and Red Bull teams, who both enjoy a considerably larger following.
Success on the track, coupled with 30-plus tweets, is clearly a winning formula.
A Little More Confrontation?
After the crash between Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez in the Canadian Grand Prix, an argument broke out on Twitter between the pair and Force India, Perez's employers.
Although Force India's aggressive, public defence of Perez could have been interpreted as unprofessional, it was a reminder of how brilliantly amusing social media can be when disagreements occur.
It only takes a glance at the Twitter profile of Joey Barton, the argumentative footballer, to learn how confrontation can make the 140-character game seem so worthwhile.
And perhaps more F1 drivers and teams should be encouraged to speak their mind and make their true feelings clear, rather than hiding behind PR-driven posts.
If you scan through your Twitter timeline on the Thursday morning of a Formula One race weekend, the chances are you'll see an image of a team's track walk.
And another. And another.
Perhaps this is unfair—given the enclosed nature of an F1 circuit—but there are only so many times you can see a group of men staring vacantly at the same kerb at the same corner of the same track.
If this procedure is repeated for each of the 19 race weekends on the calendar, it becomes tiresome.
And that boredom will only drive people away.
The suggestions made on the previous nine slides will count for little if Formula One doesn't recognise and accept that it needs social media if it is to enhance as a brand.
Despite its apparent eagerness to appeal to a wider audience in recent years by introducing rules and regulations that nobody wants—such as the ridiculous double points rule for the last race of the season—F1 doesn't seem to have the same willingness to change its stance on social media.
The only logical explanation for that is its ego; F1 thinks it's too good and too stylish to join the rest of us.
And if it maintains that attitude, the sport could find itself missing out on much more than "likes" and followers.