July 10, 2014 (F1plus/Kate Hewitt).- Criticism of Formula 1’s overall marketing and use of social media has suddenly come to the forefront after recent falling TV figures. For many years viewing figures have been a rocky road, but since social media is on the rise, many people are left asking why F1 hasn’t resulted in using it.
It’s not often that you see an F1 logo anywhere other than specific motoring events. But, as approaching Silverstone last weekend, it became quite evident that the only advertisements nearby were for the circuit. Nothing to say that Formula 1 was even there, and yes that may be pointing out the obvious, but talk about bad marketing. Surely you’d want to highlight the fact that - despite what some may think - there is, in fact, a Grand Prix this weekend.
But, of course, social media doesn’t make any profit. So Mr Ecclestone dismisses it. Effectively, dismissing the closest interactions with fans he could possibly get.
On the contrast, all of the F1 teams and all but two current drivers are using social media. In 2010 Force India had the highest amount of Twitter followers with 10,260 people, whereas 15,343 people followed Sauber on Facebook that same year. Jump to the present and that has nearly increased by 20 times. Red Bulls previous domination has meant that their follower count on both Twitter and Facebook has increased by over 70 times. Furthermore, on Facebook, five of the teams are well passed 1 million followers with Mercedes comfortably in the 7 million region.
Some teams even employ specific personnel to work on social media and speak to their fans. They show garage photographs and share info-graphics that showcase interesting statistics for fans that spread like wildfire.
The official Formula 1 account has more followers than any of the teams, yet is very robotic in its form. It shows no passion, no humour and no fan-interactions. It just shares its own stories that take you to its website. There’s no connection, if you will. Nothing to make you believe that there’s someone behind the screen with the same fascination as you. And whilst we sit here wondering why we aren’t seeing exclusive interviews and inside knowledge, the majority of people running the sport have decided to introduce more artificiality - as if that’s what we all desperately wanted. Double points, standing starts and a cone sticking out the rear of the cars - making it just as ugly from the back as it is from the front - were all unnecessary answers to what nobody was asking.
Why change something that wasn’t broken?
Fans will get used to the new sound and appearance of this era and if the management was on social media they’d realise that by now. They’d also realise that it’s roughly 50% of fans complaining about the V6’s, whereas about 99% are against double points. They wonder why viewing figures are dropping when they introduce dramatic pointless rules like the aforementioned. Rules that not one person had asked for.
Some data, including polls conducted by Sky F1 and Ferrari, are not representative. Sky F1 is just a British broadcaster and therefore will only attract British fans to their website and Ferrari will only receive votes from the Tifosi. However, the F1 website gains visibility from fans globally, so if they want to really hear what fans think, why aren’t they asking them via their official platforms?
The circuits have even turned to social media to boost their figures. Melbourne, Sakhir and Silverstone are just a handful of examples. And actually, Silverstone’s campsite Woodlands, is even on social media, likewise are several sponsors of the F1 teams - Rexona, Santander and Shell all have separate F1 related accounts, to name just a few.
The quickest news or rumours you’ll read nowadays are journalists’ tweets that have been ‘retweeted’ a handful of times. It’s then followed by the complete story that verifies the initial thoughts. What’s more, is that it gives every fan an opportunity to share their opinions; whether people agree with them or not. In short, if you want to know what’s happening in the F1 world right now, odds are, you check your twitter as apposed to a publication or website. If you want the details and the proper story, you then turn to a trusted site like AUTOSPORT.
It’s not just about fan-interaction but it’s also about strengthening the image of the sport. Formula 1 lost it’s battle to politics a long time ago and is still trying to recover the charm it once had. All it takes is for that one person to step forward and admit that social media could be the way forwards. Offer videos, competitions and gripping pictures to entice not just the die-hard fans, but also new viewers too. They need to stop meddling with rules and regulations and engage with the people they’re trying to please most - their fans. Because the fans are what keeps the sport going.