This past Sunday, live on YouTube a record eight million people watched Felix Baumgartner skydive from 128,000 feet. The moment, for me, shown that the way we watch live events is changing. But how quick are people adapting to the change?
Whilst television is still king of transmitting live events, the fact that eight million people watched Baumgartner’s skydive shows that the internet is becoming a bigger player, and will only serve to become an even bigger force in the future. So how is motor sport adapting to the change? Do they have Facebook and Twitter pages for users to interact with their sports, and do they upload short clips to YouTube accounts?
The best examples of motor sport series’ which interact with fans has to be the IndyCar Series and MotoGP.
Both series’ have Facebook and Twitter pages, which in 2012 is crucial not only for communicating with your existing fan base, but also trying to attract new fans to the brand. I say ‘brand’ because that is what it is, yes it may be a form of motor sport but it is a ‘brand’, and the more recognised the brand gets via Facebook and Twitter, the more likely new fans are going to get onboard, and the more likely it is that the wheel will keep on spinning. Looking at the Twitter for both accounts, you can see that they are similar in their communication methods, both are clearly human controlled which makes it seem all the more real, they both sometimes respond to fans and hold Twitter Q&A sessions on the accounts. So that is all the right boxes ticked.
And the YouTube accounts for both MotoGP and IndyCar Series allow fans to get exclusive content as well as race highlights, to dive more into the sport they love. It also allows new fans to try it out, chances are if you don’t like the three minute highlight packages then you won’t return, but if you think “you know what, I like that”, then the person is more likely to return. And that’s one more fan watching your product. In no way or stretch of the imagination is that a negative thing. The benefit as well with having YouTube accounts is that they can also upload archive clips. I did spot however that the MotoGP account has been active for five years, and in that time they have built up 112,000 subscribers to YouTube, and their videos have been viewed 205 million times. The advantage there being that videos that were uploaded five years ago are still there now, take this video package for the Motegi MotoGP round in 2007, uploaded on September 23rd, 2007 and has now amassed nearly 5 million views. Not bad, hey! Both channels as well, more importantly make you feel ‘welcome’ to the page and allow you to explore further.
Again, MotoGP and IndyCar Series are both fantastic examples of how to build a social media profile, both have done everything right on that front which will benefit them in the future. Now, what about Formula 1, I hear you ask.
We’ll start off with Facebook. I can see a lot of fan pages, but not much in terms of official. There is a official DHL F1 Logistics page with 350,000 fans, but that seems an awfully odd title for a page. Where’s the official Formula 1 page created by Formula One Management’s social media leader? Because as far as I can tell, there is not an official page. Whilst there are team pages, there is no official pages, unlike with MotoGP and IndyCar Series.
Moving onto Twitter, and things improve. Slightly. There’s two official Formula 1 Twitter accounts here and here. Whilst that is a good thing, the two fail significantly in many areas. The first thing you will notice is that they appear identical. That’s probably not a coincidence, because diving deeper in, and it seems that both are just automated feeds that pull articles from the official Formula 1 website. I mean, what is the point of that? There’s no interaction at all, they don’t retweet anyone, they don’t conduct Twitter Q&A sessions, it is just an automated feed, which probably requires zero human intervention. So from that perspective, it’s pretty weak. Why not do a Twitter Q&A session on their official Twitter account? If Barack Obama can do a Q&A on Reddit, I’m pretty certain that Bernie Ecclestone can do a Q&A with Twitter users! I get the impression that they don’t wish to interact with the fans. If they did, then they would have opened up their Twitter account more instead of leaving it to an automated feed.
Finally there is YouTube. I would link to the official Formula 1 YouTube account. Except there is not one. Why? Who knows. MotoGP operates similarly to Formula 1 in the way that they do their worldwide television broadcasting rights, so why Formula One Management choose not to create an official Formula 1 YouTube account is beyond me. Some people would probably start screaming for Classic F1 races straight away. Personally, there is no chance of that happening. I don’t think the MotoGP account does that, so the chances of any Formula 1 YouTube doing that is highly unlikely. But uploading highlights one day after a race along with onboards and other exclusive content? Unless their contracts with broadcasters are that water-tight which effectively ban them from creating a YouTube account, I really don’t see a legitimate reason for why the above cannot be done. I’m not exactly requesting Mount Everest, but a few exclusive clips here during race weekends would not go amiss.
The fact that I am typing this in 2012 though is completely laughable when in reality Formula One Management should have jumped on the YouTube bandwagon years ago and started to upload clips. Instead of uploading exclusive content onto YouTube, Formula One Management seem insistent on removing content from the video sharing site. On one hand they are perfectly entitled to protect their copyright, but on the other hand that material is gathering a lot of dust doing nothing on the shelves at Biggin Hill as I’ve described multiple times here. If you are not bothering to reuse archive footage in new and unique ways then yes, in my opinion other people should use it in any way they see fit if you are not maximising the material you have. Touching onto the official websites for a minute, MotoGP’s video archive goes back to 1992. The Formula 1 website video archive goes back to 2008. Which is ridiculous. Okay, you have to pay to access MotoGP’s archive, but considering the amount that is on there, it is not unreasonable to ask for a fee.
Events like Felix Baumgartner’s jump last Sunday show how the internet is revolutionising the way we consume information and watch live events. In my opinion, Formula One Management need a kick up the backside where social media is considered, because they are three steps behind the rest of the world. Of course, let us not forget that Formula One Management always seem to be a few steps behind. We didn’t get widescreen until 2007. We didn’t get high definition until 2011. So don’t except them to start adapting more to the internet revolution any time soon…