Social media is something most of us use on a daily basis, sometimes without even thinking about it. Whether it’s communicating with friends, work colleagues or just to share some pictures, it has become a part of life for almost two billion people. So when Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport hasn’t adapted to the modern age of fan interaction, it has been known to become quite frustrating amongst the fans out there. Has the situation changed?
Reaching an audience
Bernie Ecclestone has often been renowned for his forward comments on how the sport should operate with regards to its public image, but when we’re talking about social media, it’s a battle that he has been fighting for a very long time. Only recently has FOM been utilising their Facebook and Twitter accounts to a much greater effect.
Content from the official accounts comes in some varied forms whether it’s doing a poll, short race review from a previous event which can include unseen footage that broadcasters may not even have picked up or even statistics for the next event on the calendar. This has been receiving great approval from the fans around the world, they even post live updates as the events unfold which is also another fantastic feature as it will help fans who can’t watch for any reason keep up to date with action on track.
Even if a racer doesn’t use his own personal account, using the team’s account to do a small Q&A, video blog on the weekend so far would be a great way to interact with fans.
Unfortunately, while there have been great strides in the way that senior management have moved forward with social media, there is also still a downside.
The paddock clampdown
Inside the confines of the paddock area is an off limits zone for taking photographs and videos, it has been restricted to include everyone, even the drivers. Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean in recent months have been in a spot of bother with FOM because of the footage and images they’ve released from the paddock and pit areas.
Is this the correct attitude from FOM though? Surely in a world where everyone is becoming more and more connected through the Internet and social media, it would be right that the drivers could help promote themselves through this forum, even if FOM only granted permission to the drivers exclusively, obviously without doing anything that has sensitive information. This would be a great way to promote the sport, with endless possibilities of what could be done next.
— Stephen Camp (@SteveCampF1) June 20, 2016
All of the teams and most of the drivers have some form of online presence with regards to social media, they promote themselves, interact with fans and even put out competitions to win prizes. This is all in the name of promoting the team and their drivers for the next Grand Prix and it works very well.
Renault for example have a fantastic online presence using their Twitter account, Mercedes and Williams are also very good at keeping everything up to date, this is not to say everyone else doesn’t do a good job either.
While not every driver has a social media account, I’ve always wondered if it should be part of their press duties in a weekend? Even if a racer doesn’t use his own personal account, using the team’s account to do a small Q&A, video blog on the weekend so far would be a great way to interact with fans so they can see their favourite driver at some point over the Grand Prix weekend and feel they are part of the action.
The other side
Drivers use their own accounts in their own way to promote themselves, whether they are on a night out with the sponsors, training or just sharing their feelings on the past race, it is a new medium in which the fans can connect with their favourite racers.
Lewis Hamilton is one of the drivers that utilise social media almost every day, whether he is out training, or in his home studio writing some more of his music, the output and engagement with the fans is on another level and it’s a great aspect to his persona. But often he has been a victim of his own efforts when it has come to how he goes about his life.
Despite the fact he is a three-time World Champion, there are many in the public domain that are quick to criticise how he lives his life off of the circuit. But is that a fair way to look at a Formula 1 champion? Absolutely not, we all live our own lives outside of our own jobs, and drivers should not be expected to be any different if we want them to be charismatic or interesting.
There is a lot for Formula 1 still achieve in the modern age with regards to fan interaction and social media but it truly has woken up in recent times and made leaps and bounds going forward. So we must continue to encourage this attitude going forward and really help push the sport in the modern age of social interactions.