The DOs and DON’Ts of F1 Twitter

Adam Hay-Nicholls

Metro correspondent and editor Adam Hay-Nicholls looks at why Formula 1 has ‘Twitterrhea’, and how to make the best of it.

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A communications tool as inherently narcissistic as Twitter was always going to catch on like wildfire within the Formula One paddock. Soon (pretty much) the whole paddock was on the social media site. Conversations that would in the past have been private (or would never have occurred) were now broadcast to thousands, clipped succinctly to 140 characters. Barriers came down. News stories broke. Satirical photos were shared. And F1 fans the world over joined the dialogue.

I’ve been on Twitter for about five years. I’ve also run Twitter accounts for racing drivers and sponsors. When I signed up, out of curiosity, my verdict was that it was a passing fad and that by now we’d be awfully embarrassed we were ever on it. Yet it’s digging itself further and further into our culture. As a journalist, it’s become part of the toolkit.

There are so many pros and cons to Twitter you could fill a book with them. Instead, let’s look at how it applies to Formula 1.

With the drivers and senior team personnel, it gives us instant, candid, colourful access to their lives. We might not give a monkey’s what our chum Steve had for breakfast, but it’s interesting to note @alo_official went for the Malaysian option this morning. From @aussiegrit, we may get a reaction to a difficult race covered in sweat, sprinkled with angst and free of any PR-dictated optimism and diplomacy. Filter-less quotes are like porno for reporters, and here is a direct source that doesn’t even require transcription. From @chiefboltkennyh we might get to see the winners trophy filled with vodka Red Bull and straws. You don’t need to be invited to the team’s party to see the results the morning after or suffer the hangover.

The PRs will often try to control team personnel accounts, with varying degrees of success. The famous telemetry Tweet by @lewishamilton last year serves as a warning to all of the invisible lines you can cross in cyberspace that will earn you a hearty bollocking. But F1 press offices have all embraced the medium to not only make announcements but also open a dialogue with fans and media and try to show some personality (as well as plug their sponsors).

For the media, it’s become a major news medium as well as, it should be noted, one of self-promotion. And outsiders are able to connect with F1 personalities, promote their thoughts, wisecracks and blogs, and actually get themselves on the landscape. I’ve known fans who have been given jobs by teams and media because of their Twitter profile.

Through the sharing of links we’re able to see what’s being talked about; interviews, virals, comedy, gossip, the opinions of the third estate, the chatter of fans.

Here is a handful of do’s and don’ts (mainly don’ts) that I would advise a would-be F1 Twit to stand by.

Don’t follow anyone who has more Tweets than they have followers.

Stick to your subject. If you’re an F1 reporter I’d be interested to know your thoughts on drivers, but I don’t need to know who you think should be voted off The Voice. That said, the occasional ‘lifestyle’ Tweet is fine.

Make sure your Tweet is newsworthy, insightful or funny. If they’re not one of those things, why Tweet it?

Unless we’re on your flight and running for the gate, we’re probably not interested that your plane is delayed.

Don’t Tweet every lap of the Grand Prix to describe what’s happening. We have eyes, commentators, and ticker feeds for that.

Always be careful about how your Tweet will go down among your peers and employer. I know at least two people in F1 who lost good jobs because of an unwise Tweet.

Remember, there isn’t an emoticon for irony or sarcasm (someone should invent one).

I’m very uneasy about people who are standing next to each other Tweeting one another.

If you’re going to promote companies because they’re a) paying you b) giving you free stuff, you need to be very subtle or creative about it.

Don’t trust everything that’s Tweeted.

And just remember, if you’re constantly looking at your iPhone you might miss something.

I’m almost over my character limit. Feel free to re-Tweet.


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