Formula 1’s getting ‘Social’ about its media

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As I mentioned earlier, I was very honored to share a microphone during a Google Hangout session with James Campbell of Mercedes AMG Petronas, Steven English of Caterham F1 and Dam McLaren of UKSN regarding Formula 1 and social media. These two gentlemen were absolutely delightful to speak with and very informative. Chris at Vivacity, the host for the Hangout, was kind enough to send me some of the key talking points of the session. The audio was a little difficult to understand so he kindly transcribed the Hangout and I wanted to share it with you to get your opinion on the matter.

As fans of F1, you no doubt have your own timelines and ways of curating those timelines. I’d be interested in knowing how the content below fits into your timeline curation process and what are the key areas in which you feel F1 can build tribal passion for teams, drivers and the sport as a whole. Steve , James and Dan are very brilliant guys and certainly understand their mission well within Caterham, Mercedes and UKSN but as fans, what is our role? Is it more than just consumption? Are we engaging in content co-creation?

I’ll share a little of our philosophy with you regarding F1B and while it may or may not resonate with you, it has served us well:

  • One rule, engage and share your opinion but do it with Decorum & Civility…no personal attacks
  • Keep our content deep enough to engage a veteran but digestible enough for a new fan…don’t get weighed down in arguing the #2 law of thermodynamics and how that calculation may or may not play in McLaren “mushroom” diffuser. There are other sites that do this very well and we have no compelling reason to copy them
  • Source all of our news links and respect all F1 journalists for the hard work they do and direct our readers to their efforts and publications through links
  • Use social media sparingly so we don’t clog our followers/friends timelines with every single word and thought we share or have and use the main platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ but avoid redundancy with other forms of aggregated content
  • We treat all other F1 blogs with the respect they deserve for the community they have built and believe they all have a particular to F1 as a whole
  • Podcast is our strongest platform and we have purposefully kept it clean and avoided ad insertions from places like Audible.com and other advertisers who do well in podcast sponsorship. We want our podcast sponsor to have an intimacy with our listeners and an authenticity to the cast and its milieu
  • Ultimately we want to build experiences on F1B not just products or services. We do this by connecting with our readers/listeners and engage in the empathy of F1 through opinion and co-content creation rather than simply aggregating news or being a repository for social media memes. Our goal has always been to create a safe harbor for new and veteran fans alike.

These are a few of our thoughts regarding our approach and trust me, they’ve not delivered a ripe monetization of F1B but we feel it is a white hat strategy that has allowed to feel proud of what we’ve achieved since 2005.

Here is the transcription:

PARTICIPANTS

–       James Campbell, Digital Manager at Mercedes AMG Petronas

–       Steven English, Digital Marketing Manager at Caterham F1

–       Todd McCandless, Chief Opinion Officer at formula1blog.com

–       Dan McLaren, Founder and Editor in Chief at UKSN – theuksportneswork.com

–       Liam Clogger, Compelo

–       Chris Illman, Head of Social Media at Vivacity


KEY CONVERSATION TAKEAWAYS

The challenges F1 teams face to build their tribe in social media…

“F1 is quite unique in that a lot of people tend to support drivers and it’s quite difficult to gain that following from a driver to a team. For example, Lewis Hamilton has a huge following, and we may have gained followers on the Mercedes channel purely because McLaren fans have followed Lewis and now follow Mercedes because he moved teams. It’s a challenge to leverage that tribalism from a team perspective because a lot of fans follow drivers, but it is a challenge that we relish and one that is possible with the right kind of engagement and content and community feeling
.” – James Campbell, Mercedes AMG Petronas

“Drivers come and go, and you need to keep your fan base (in spite of that that). That’s something we’ve worked hard on in the past five years since our team’s been in existence. When the team was first set up we had a lot of interest around the novelty of a new team, the Lotus name and the heritage that came with that and the drivers we had in Heikki and Jarno were well known in the sport. It was a good position to come from, but the novelty of being a new team wears off. We’ve changed brand into Caterham and had 3 more drivers come and go since Heikki and Jarno, so it’s important to us to make sure we’ve built enough of a team and gathered enough of a tribe around it that we maintain that following through any guise we have been or may become. It’s about building an identify for your team.” –
Steven English, Caterham F1


“The one thing I feel bad for teams about is that Formula 1 puts them in the position where they have to do all the heavy lifting. If you look at American interest in Formula 1, we’re probably less driver centric. I’m a Ferrari fan, and I like whoever’s driving for Ferrari. But as Steve and James have mentioned, a lot of the heavy lifting is left to the teams to promote this sport. The drivers aren’t motivated to teach about the sport of F1, but the teams are and have a vested interest in sponsorships. Good or bad I feel bad that guys like Steve and James are left to do this heavy lifting, to carry the sport into this market, certainly in North America, and teach fans about the sport but also teach “Oh by the way this is what Mercedes does” or “This is what Caterham does”.
Todd McCandless, formula1blog.com


Teams must have a clear channel strategy

“It’s almost too easy to feel like you should be on every platform. We could be posting content across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest… The list goes on and on. For us the more important thing is to understand why you are on the platforms that you are on, what you’re aiming to get out of being on them, whether its what you want to get out of it for your own goals or for what you want to offer to the people who are following you on them. Only when you know why you are on certain platforms can you target your specific type of content or engagement with people to deliver the value where it’s best suited.” – Steven English, Caterham F1

“There’s so many channels out there that you do need to have a reason to be on them. You have to have a focus on simplicity. Simplicity is key.” –James Campbell, Mercedes AMG Petronas

Building an F1 tribe is about being open…

“We’ve strived to open our doors to fans and give people more behind the scenes access, more insightful content. F1 fans are a hungry bunch which makes the formula simple for us. If you give them something they can’t get anywhere else, they’re going to come back. But that challenge keeps evolving as each team broadens their strategy and social engagement, it becomes harder and harder to be the one who’s doing something different and breaking new ground” – Steven English, Caterham F1

Avoiding over-commercialising your community…

The balance you’ve got to find is that you must build the following before you start commercialising it. You can’t build a following if you’re commercialising too much, and once you have built the following, if you start commercialising it too much you’re going to lose that following. James Campbell, Mercedes AMG Petronas

Offering genuine perspectives…

“In NASCAR, Twitter accounts used by drivers are really run by brand management and PR, fashioned and managed not by individual drivers in some cases. You’ll see a lot of that in the States, but what really resonates with the fans is the drivers and players in the case of the NBA who manage their own twitter accounts. Fans pick up on that pretty quickly.” Todd McCandless, formula1blog.com

“It’s about the quality of the content and the engagement you can offer to your fans. With drivers, people want to see their personality, they want to see them speaking freely, they want to know what he things. It would help us spread further and wider if we could harness the driver’s identities and reach new people but ultimately there isn’t value in it. We want to deliver the very best and people deserve to have the drivers’ honest opinions.Steven English, Caterham F1

Educating and informing…


“Social Media represents an opportunity for us to look behind the curtain. I’m a firm believer that teams should be teaching their way to success. It’s cute to post a picture of rabbits mating, but fans want content to be revelatory in nature, they want it to be informative in nature, more so than entertaining, edgy or viral.” – Todd McCandless, formula1blog.com

Being all inclusive…

“F1 is around in so many different countries, so how do you engage with all these different communities? You have football clubs which have language specific accounts on Twitter, for example. If you only communicate in English, you’re not engaging with a large population.” – Dan McLaren, UKSN

And taking no short cuts when engaging with fans…

Building a tribe and a community is about building a two-way conversation.  It’s not about a team just pushing content out there and not allowing people to engage with it or not interacting with users. It’s about replying with people; If it’s on Twitter, retweeting and favouriting. On Facebook you comment back on posts. If you speak to any follower in person who follows the Twitter account as a team about replying to them on Twitter, it literally makes their day. If it takes you 10 seconds to do that and it helps to build the community then that’s exactly what you should be doing.” – James Campbell, Mercedes AMG Petronas

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