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.
Firstly, 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.
Now 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.