#F1 Features: The Generation Game – #SocialHysteria

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Jacktheblob

Editor’s note: Jack is a young student, and an avid F1 fan. In the ‘The Generation Game’ series Jack will share with us why F1 has such a problem attracting the next generation of fans.


Over the past few months I’ve read a lot of articles on F1 blogs and websites that all reference the “next generation” of F1 fans. As a part of this generation myself, I felt it was time to set the record straight on a few matters. I am a student, heading off to university in October. These are my thoughts, as a genuine young person, on the current state of the sport and the challenge of captivating the next generation of fans.


#3 – Social Hysteria

Social media is becoming an ever more prominent subject of debate, and one that is inexorably linked to young people. Being a student myself this was the topic I knew I had to write about, but please remember these are just my own thoughts on the matter – please share your own opinion in the comments.

TwitterFirstly, if you’re going to attempt to “do” social media, you have to do it right. If / when F1 officially embraces social media, the approach has to be spot on from the word go. First impressions do count, and being boring on social media is worse than not being on it at all. Fortunately the teams have taken matters into their own hands and Lotus and Mercedes do a good job of maintaining a fun, informal attitude, which is just right for the younger generation.

Ferrari, on the other hand, don’t really seem to have got it. Their “it happened today” tweets – always in trios to include Italian and Spanish – are just annoying. After each race they also post a series of banal quotes from the team members, inevitably along the lines of “we must do better”. This approach isn’t going to gain any new fans among my age group.

In terms of individuals, Twitter is a great way for fans to follow their heroes. And it’s true – Formula 1 does need heroes. Hamilton and Alonso both have over 2 million followers, roughly 4 times more than most teams manage. This shows that fans are really interested in the drivers as people, and they should be encouraged to show more of their personality. The teams don’t seem to enjoy the same level of fan support as the drivers, perhaps because they are global companies rather than local clubs, and so there is a weaker sense of loyalty.

instagram-vs-vineNow onto Vine, the six second video app that also appears on Twitter. Whilst six seconds may seem a tiny amount of time, you’d be surprised by how much you can actually fit in. This could become an easy, accessible way to broadcast crashes, overtakes, botched pit stops etc in a manner that captures the attention and encourages you to watch the next race. Facebook allows you to embed longer clips into your post, and of course there’s YouTube as well. If the rules around posting footage are relaxed then these sites could bring in some new fans.

The key issue is (as always) money. As Bernie says, “We’re commercial… If they find people to pay us then I will be happy” [AUTOSPORT]. So the big question is, can you make money out of social media? According to Forbes, you can – and one new business is supposedly making $1M a month from it. Considering the size of Formula 1, it should theoretically be possible to make millions of dollars every month… all at the push of a button.

Having said all that, I have an admission to make. I don’t think Formula 1 really does need to “officially” embrace social media. It’s really just a place for selfies, boasting, and pictures of your dinner. As a platform I think it’s far more suited to fan sites and peeking into drivers’ lives rather than any Bernie-sanctioned propaganda.

Because there are issues with the somewhat idyllic, almost utopian way in which some people are presenting social media. I have seen some people who seem to believe that all of the sport’s problems will go away if only we embrace social media. But in reality, social media comes with its own problems.

To begin with, it’s hard to get followers who aren’t already interested in you. Don’t tell the guys in marketing, but nobody my age actually looks at adverts, so the “sponsored post” route isn’t going to work. Sure, people can retweet / share posts, but they tend to be sharing with people with similar interests – ie other fans. Bringing F1 to a whole new audience will be difficult.

Another issue with social media is the rise of the ‘troll’. For some reason, the protection and anonymity of a computer screen makes ordinary people abandon the constraints of society and sink to hurling insults at complete strangers. Mercedes and Nico Rosberg became victims of the darker side of social media following ‘The Incident’ as hundreds of people took it upon themselves to provide justice in the form of abuse, and even TJ13 has seen problems. Unfortunately this seems unavoidable once enough people join an online discussion, and it will not do anything to help improve the image of F1.

Finally, a slightly odd but very real issue. My generation aren’t particularly discerning when it comes to their online activity – so people have thousands of Facebook friends, or follow thousands of people on Twitter. The problem is that posts can then become lost in a swamp of holiday pictures and piano-playing cats… So even if people do follow somebody, they don’t necessarily see their posts.

Combined with the recent revelation that “up to 8.5% of active Twitter users are not human” (meaning bots rather than aforementioned cats), it becomes even harder to sell social media to sceptics like Bernie who are interested only in the Holy Grail of profit.

Social media clearly has the potential to provide a more immersive experience for existing fans, but it does come with its own problems when it comes to attracting new fans and holding debates. The money question is rather complex and no doubt will be the deciding factor should F1 ever officially embrace social media. But on the whole, I think the key players – the teams, drivers and news sites – already provide a sufficient presence on social media so that fans aren’t missing anything major.

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25 responses to “#F1 Features: The Generation Game – #SocialHysteria

  1. Great post. I wonder whether it is vital the teams find a way to attract fans…. Regardless of driver setup…..

    If we are about to see F1 drivers start and finish their careers aged 17-22/23, then driver worship will die….. So the teams will need to be the focus….

    What values do McLaren or Mercedes represent?

    • You’re onto the right question. The teams need a social media “personality” that reflects their “values”. Unfortunately, as Lotus demonstrated, being genius in garnering media attention does not always fit predetermined corporate guidelines. Perhaps we could even see drivers being picked for the size of their twitter following in addition to the size of their sponsorship, particularly if they are going to be cycled quickly through.

      Personally, I think FOM should leave it up to the amateurs for once. Let the fans post short YouTube clips and tweet them. Hell, give the person who gets the most eyeballs between GP’s a paddock pass. It would be cheap at twice the cost in terms of drawing new viewers into the sport.

      The second issue is one of “skin in the game”. Most teams lack a long term commitment to the sport. One way to solve this problem which has already shown up in the comments would be to sell franchises, say 12. Properly valued the teams would all then have an interest in the long term health of the sport, as it would increase the value of their franchise, should they choose to sell.

      The third issue is of course the most intractable, the need to invest more money from the commercial rights back into the teams in order to improve the show. Of course, that’s where the sport is most f*cked because the original deal was so insane. Not sure there’s an easy fix that doesn’t involve an individual with a long cloak and a scythe at this point TBH.

  2. Jack, it’s not a recent revelation, that online media attract spamming armies and bot campaigns. If you mean the figure you quote is the news, it makes sense to support it. A obvious good starting point for usually well written articles is ArsTechnica, which immediately turns up this: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/08/deciphering-the-tricks-of-the-twitter-spammers/

    Marketing Week, BBC’s magazine, and others variously report the percent figure from Twitter themselves. Read a little further, the source is Twitter’s 10-Q SEC filing, where it’s noted that this number may include automated news services and other types of legitimate non human users. Many services exist to auto generate tweets from content management systems, such as wordless, or from sports scores. This is only going it increase, as Twitter is more readily seen as a reliable messaging platform, and widespread integration with APIs and services like IfThisThenThat. Hackernews turned up two project announcements that I am certain will generate mire automated tweets and vines: a code to run YouTube into GIFs, and a OCR service for video. (this is not new tech, but new freely available project code) I can see ways of using those to identify valuable clips automatically, searching for the timing captions.

    I guess I could be picky and say I find it strange that social media is thought of so distinctly from earlier web services, but I’m saying that to deliberately emphasize the fact that effort is needed in “traditional” web and internet use, to lift the way teams are understood and appreciated, and that if you have a distinct voice, the means and method of communication will matter much less. I do not find team websites appealing. I am not sure there’s any ready data on visitor statistics to team websites. There should be, also for the FÎA and FOM. This ought to be centrally gathered and made open, and therefore could usefully be a platform to organize advertising across F1 media properties, official, team owned, or independent. I’d then have a prominent central feed of all F1 news from well regarded sources, and if not public then a registerable access to real time stats for traffic for advertisers.

    You can never say first impressions don’t count, but arguing that one needs to get it right on the sport from the word go doesn’t of itself persuade me of anything much. Does it assume that everyone will tune in to a feed from the first moment, and so you stand to lose a entire audience? Does it argue that you have to find the right voice or style before you start? I’m uncertain if these things and i’d expect that there would be a learning curve for any new twitter or similar venture, no matter how sophisticated of experienced are those authoring it. My instinct as to the question of F1 in social media, is that it needs to be experimental. I would worry more if there was, right now, some kind of Bernie style think tank going on, with the likes of Flavio involved, concocting grand plans to be “perfect” front the get go. Such plans rarely seem to work. In fact, I think usually good websites, good media, go through a number of changes, pivots, even incarnations, in the pursuit of a happy medium with a audience.

    Twitter and Facebook, as you rightfully point out, suffer from a surfeit of superficiality, silliness, and salaciousness. Finding what is relevant if interesting is hard, and inevitably feeds languish unread. Twitter needs a new kind of client, able to better spot the relevancy of tweets to user interests, something that could be precomputed in coded hashtags, to personalize prominence. Facebook, however, is clearly intent on curating the experience for their own purposes. Wars, famine and death are not conducive to warm fuzzy feelings that advertisers would like you to enjoy whilst parting with money. So Facebook curates away the untoward, for our natural benefit and dedicated, undistracted, delectation of commercially compatible wares.

    What you’ve touched on, the trivialization of the use of social media, from selfies to purely incidental chit chat of no consequence, poses a interesting question: how do social media users, intent on conveying a message, fit in with the mood and appreciation of audiences? What do they need to be considering, when they tweet their messages? Even time if day can affect interests. More business like information is usually welcomed in the morning, social nuances and tidbits if private lives, for the evening. Maybe insomniacs can be rewarded with releasing in depth materials during the small hours of the night?

    Not touched upon, as yet, is what messages are lacking from teams and drivers? Where is there a deficit that can be addressed? Do fans want simple things like a curated feed of interesting links for news, or pure gossip? Could providing a aggregator / interests based / learning search engine affair for individual users, be of value? It certainly would be if value in learning what fans want, and might be what fans want to start with. I don’t want a feed from a particular website, but there is one writer on that site who I always have time for. That sort of thing is useful data, you can learn a lot from such preferences. Advertisers can know that I tend to dedicate reading time when I visit that website, for that author, and tailor their ads to suit. They can deliver consistent repeated ads with more detailed messages or click through to less in your face with the USP pages, and so on. There’s lots of tailoring that can be done, that I would be busy trying to provide as a service to F1 media in general, including opening up the advertising platforms, because building this data leads to more agencies being familiar with the value of the sport to potential sponsors.

    I’ve thought through countless projects that could inexpensively (in real terms, multi million pound budgets are inexpensive) provide almost continuous fresh material to the fans. But those are traditional efforts in the sense of being didactic or one way, not social media. TPTB ought it be thinking how exactly they mean to be social, when it coms to social media. Is this mean tot be a real conversation? Will they engage the journalists, enticing journos form their website lairs of their own rules of opinions and rationale and outside the comfort zone of fan bases who will always prop up even ridiculous commentary? How many characters can be included in real ongoing two way discussion? Who are the people we never hear from, but want to, or whose voices and insight would be of value?

    I don’t think it matters whether F1’s powers “do” social media. It matters whether they get off their backsides and do anything. Social media will just be a part of doing *something* already.

    Oh, and as much as we all say we do not look at adverts, believe me, I try to not consume the dog food of my own profession, in recreational hours, we all really do see them. There’s been many a test for recognition of campaigns by those who self declare to ignore adverts, sufficient to prove that it is rare that well executed large budget campaigns fail to be seen. It does however affect highly targeted adverts. I say that is because they tend to be done poorly. Yes, I know what I looked at on Amazon yesterday, I sometimes click those ads out of annoyance, as stupid a act as that is.. but in mind if that fact, that people can and do block adverts, is this social media conversation one in which the sponsors can take a active, positive, contributory role, and wild they and their talk, be welcomed?

    I put forward more questions than I answer, but that’s a little bit deliberate. After all, I understand this is to be a series, so I thought to think out loud. But I’ve done enough of that for today, after all this is actually my day job, dealing with problems relating to all of this. Well done Jack, good shot, keep at it!

  3. I hope you don’t kind a constructive comment or two, if you’ll permit me: “social hysteria” is a byline phrase without any supporting relevancy in the text. I hadn’t noticed those words until now, because they seemed a bit lost, out of place. As if they needed a exclamation mark and were part of a illustration of egregious twittering. I suppose a lot of twitter and Facebook life is hysterical, but nothing in the article debates what I would think warrants the title appendage, unless you stretch out to the kind of casual use referred to and maybe the Spa “incident”, but it would be more usual to address a byline title phrase directly in the actual article, if not expected. As it is, the words appear factual, didactic, not inquisitive, and might have been adorned with a question mark, and that resulting question asked as a point in the article: is this about hysteria, or over reaction, or overly valuing the effect, or potential, of social media in F1? I think you do ask that question, but not directly, and it would have made a more coherent whole, to be directly inclusive.

    Very minor style point “I have seen people who have” would read better for maybe saying you have read opinions, which is what I think you mean by “see people” who hold forth opinions. It might be good flow to pick up on the present perfect, “I read frequently, commentators who hold the singular opinion, that to embrace social media is the solution itself. But little guidance or further illumination is forthcoming.”

    The only writing advice I was ever given, and it may show, after too many coffees, is to write, or at least draft, as if you were speaking conversationally. Doing so often irons out otherwise technically unfaulted English, which nevertheless may not flow as easily as it could, and in conversational tones, you can more easily consider the emphasis, whilst occasional upshots can include less than strictly perfect grammar being acceptable. The one time I always know I am troubled with the order of logic in what I am writing about, is when I find my language is tripping grammatically, when the flow is breaking or stuttering, and there’s a awkwardness. Mentally speaking aloud my thoughts, often slows things down to a easier progression, and unravels where one or more thoughts might be jumbling together, causing hesitation and introducing a kind of stutter that’s usually obviously inelegant, even if I can’t agree on where I went wrong, just by proofing as normal.

    I think that Vine could have been deserving of more attention. Races are really studded by a very few key moments. Interestingly, this is very similar to American Football, where it’s estimated that the average game is comprised of 11 minutes of actual play. Yes, eleven minutes. That presents a unique set of challenges in sporting commentary. Unique, except for the fact F1 is very similar, and so you might look at social media comparisons by observing what NFL teams get up to. One could almost argue that the slow mo replay’s spiritual home is in NFL commentary, keeping the fans occupied and attentive. Given the poverty of broadcast commentary, is this a function that fans can fulfill, thereby saving the sport from the faults of often hapless presenters? Vine’s format is almost a natural fit. (you might then consider my mention of two projects above, that would allow one to automatically search for replay action) And then, of course, the value attributable to these clips, and the background of FOM’s miserly approach to a screamingly obvious potential for promotion of the great races. Does social media sharing follow the same legal rules as the famous Sony Betamax decision? Is it different from YouTube sufficiently distinctly? Does direct sharing or retweeting Vine clips have a greater impact on fans? Maybe thoughts for future columns.

      • That would be a little bit assumptive. Actually I was arm twisting some friends to be on it during the first year or so, when it was brought down by SMS gateways left right and center. If you mean to say “you sound a bit down on Jack’s article”, l’d say you were wrong, also.

    • Other John, the title was simply a play on ‘Social Media’. ‘Social Hysteria’ came from the abundance of articles and comments saying that F1 must embrace SM or be doomed. I didn’t spell out the reason for the title as I was always taught that the reader gains more when they are able to deduce the connection themselves, rather than being spoon fed. Perhaps I have had too much exposure to the marvelous wordplay often found on the front page of the Sun. Also, whilst I am always open to advice, I find yours to be rather contradictory. Firstly, rather than “I have seen people who have”, you suggest the phrase:

      “I read frequently, commentators who hold the singular opinion, that to embrace social media is the solution itself. But little guidance or further illumination is forthcoming.”

      You then state:

      “The only writing advice I was ever given, and it may show, after too many coffees, is to write, or at least draft, as if you were speaking conversationally.”

      I have two issues with this: firstly, I never even said “I have seen people who have”, and secondly, I have never heard anyone use a phrase like yours in conversation. Certainly not in Yorkshire anyway. 😉

      Thanks for commenting!

      • LOL, I believe RonSpeak is actually a root language of mine. But you’re gong to laugh, well maybe, because I have Yorkshire family, I just wasn’t born there. Halifax lass, my mum. I get your point now, about “embrace SM or be doomed”, as to “Social hysteria”, but as I said, it was a small point, and might age me as to print conventions, where you’d be asked why you use every column inch of the page. Ink costs, yaknow….

        All best, j

      • Hey, I think this is refreshing. Do you know what the kids of today want? I don’t know how old you are, but it’s a fact that if you don’t get f1 teached by your dad you’d never pick it up in the first place. And i think his articles are a bit of an insight of the why don’t they think f1 is cool. For us, 20 years or more followers, it’s a natural state of mind. But what do the kids want?

  4. All this hype about ‘social media’ is just sheep herding. F1 Teams are commercial organisations, not a bunch of mates deciding whether to go to McD’s or Pizza Hut. Put yourself in the position of a team boss. What does it do for the team? Does it bring in more sponsorship, or get them an aero advantage? F1 teams are obsessed with secrecy and PR. For commercial users, Twitbook has just become a cheap and substandard version of the news email. With the obsessive secrecy of F1 teams, I would ask, what are they going to do with social media? If you want to start a rumour or just gossip, the last thing you want, is to have it traceable back to your PR office. If you want to do something that will attract fans, make new fans, and more importantly make your team site ‘sticky’, then Red Bulletin is a great example of interesting content that appeals to a wide range of interests. OK they don’t have much on F1 at the moment, but you know why! The Infinity RB site is also better than average.

    http://www.redbulletin.com/uk/en

    http://www.infiniti-redbullracing.com/

  5. I strongly dislike social media as it tends to trivialize and dumb-down events by condensing them into short sound bites, video clips or blogs. Do the younger generation really have such a short attention span that they can’t appreciate a race developing over 2 hours? I think not. FOM: Please do not dumb down F1 to the lowest common denominator at my expense. There are enough ‘sports’ already that cater to people who watch x-factor.

    • I think the issue is more that FOM (company that manages F1’s “public” presence) simply does *no* fan engagement of any real value/merit on behalf of the F1 using these channels like Twitter.

      And the issue isn’t one of condensing the sometimes complex choreography of a race unfolding over two hours into “dumbed-down” micro-bites, but rather, opening up another channel of outreach/engagement/communication/interaction to create in fans a sense of engagement with F1 similar to (or better than) what they perceive is the reality for fandom in other arenas.

      At least that’s what I think could be the concern, iirc. You might check out this post on the F1 Broadcasting Blog from earlier this year:

      Some points that the Commercial Rights Holder should promote

      https://f1broadcasting.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/some-points-that-the-commercial-rights-holder-should-promote/

      “The job of the Commercial Rights Holder is to promote and showcase Formula 1 to the audience. With all the criticism of Formula 1 this year, along with artificiality being introduced (double points), how about the Commercial Rights Holder doing its job and putting some positive points out there into the public domain?

      For reference, between 13:00 and 15:30 on Saturday, @F1 made three tweets, despite having a massive (by Formula 1’s standards) 830,000 followers, more than any team or F1 broadcaster, that they could have mentioned the sport to. As I mentioned in the linked article, @F1 should be the gateway to the sport. Instead of me banging on about the fact that they need a social media editor, let’s pretend I’m on day one of the job. I need content to fill the Twitter feed, and make it look interesting, approachable, and more importantly: ready, for the next generation. So here are four tweets from the Austrian Grand Prix that are cool all in their own way. If I was @F1, I’d be sharing these to my 830,000 followers straight away…”

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