The Twitter outlook – 2013 update

Those of you who followed my blog in the early days may remember a series of posts entitled ‘The Twitter outlook’. Throughout 2012, from launch until the end of the year, I posted a weekly social media update detailing each of the Formula 1 driver followers. I decided to scrap it for 2013 because, I’ll be honest, it was a bit mundane and I didn’t feel it was adding to the blog. That isn’t to say that social media is not important, in fact it is completely the opposite. It is, in my view, the drivers’ and teams’ gateway to communicating with their fans, as fans attempt to get even more engaged with the sport they love.

The 2013 Formula 1 grid comprised of 23 drivers and 11 teams in total, Heikki Kovalainen the extra driver having replaced Kimi Raikkonen for the final two races of 2013. Adrian Sutil joined Twitter mid-way through 2013, meaning only two drivers on the grid don’t have Twitter: Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. In the past few days, with the very sad news about Michael Schumacher, we have seen what can happen when fakers are mis-interpreted as real accounts: they are quoted on TV or radio. For some reason, it appears some are unable to conduct a simple Google search asking the question. It does make those journalists foolish, especially the Formula 1 journalists that follow said accounts who should know better having tracked their every movement for nine months of the year.

Whilst the 2014 Formula 1 grid has not been completed we know already that, as of writing, Kevin Magnussen does not have Twitter. Credit goes out to those who communicate regularly with fans on Twitter, that statement of course excluding the series organisers who are still behind the times (the linked blog post was written in October 2012, the situation is still the same a year and a bit later, disappointingly). The list below shows the number of Twitter followers for each driver, with the teams next to each driver. It is fairly self explanatory, in some cases there is a slash (/) in the event a driver has switched between 2013 and 2014. For historical purposes, and so there is not confusion, I’ve moved any drivers who we know are definitely not racing in 2014 to the bottom.

1,891,994 – Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
1,831,006 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
1,636,514 – Jenson Button (McLaren)
584,433 – Pastor Maldonaldo (Williams / Lotus)
551,944 – Sergio Perez (McLaren / Force India)
478,701 – Felipe Massa (Ferrari / Williams)
439,039 – Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
310,239 – Paul di Resta (Force India / TBC)
270,944 – Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus / TBC)
223,482 – Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber / Force India)
221,792 – Romain Grosjean (Lotus)
155,915 – Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso / Red Bull)
151,631 – Charles Pic (Caterham / TBC)
106,858 – Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)
101,358 – Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber)
76,501 – Max Chilton (Marussia / TBC)
73,464 – Jules Bianchi (Marussia)
65,796 – Giedo van der Garde (Caterham / TBC)
49,916 – Valtteri Bottas (Williams)
15,257 – Adrian Sutil (Force India / Sauber)
10,734 – Daniil Kvyat (N/A / Toro Rosso)
856,151 – Mark Webber (2013 – last race)
620,460 – Bruno Senna (2012 – last race)
296,753 – Pedro de la Rosa (2012 – last race)
225,757 – Narain Karthikeyan (2012 – last race)
135,690 – Timo Glock (2012 – last race)
125,480 – Kamui Kobayashi (2012 – last race)
124,937 – Vitaly Petrov (2012 – last race)

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are still the three runaway drivers at the front, leading Formula 1’s social media profile. Alonso has had his Twitter less time than Hamilton and Button which shows his popularity with fans worldwide. At this point, Mark Webber would have been next, but moving to the World Endurance Championship means that his followers will not find themselves ‘tapped into’ F1, but instead WEC, which should improve their social media profile a fair bit. Outside of the top three though, there is a huge drop down – Pastor Maldonaldo, Sergio Perez, Felipe Massa and the rest all have less than a third of the top three followers, a huge gulf between the top three and the rest!

An interesting spot is the Central and South American influence on the table, all of those drivers rate highly despite none of the three having a good season. Down at the bottom, Adrian Sutil has only had his Twitter account half a year, so his follower numbers should increase significantly in 2014. If I was to make a prediction, I’d say that Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat are likely to make the biggest increases in 2014. I’m surprised Bottas’ is not higher actually given how #BOTTAS is made a big thing of from time to time. Who has increased the most in 2013? Like above, I’ve split it into current drivers and former drivers, although I’ve numbered the current drivers so we have some comparison.

Drivers – Increases
01 – 539,568 – Lewis Hamilton (up 1)
02 – 487,572 – Fernando Alonso (down 1)
03 – 343,511 – Jenson Button (n/a)
04 – 267,614 – Pastor Maldonaldo (up 3)
05 – 236,015 – Felipe Massa (up 1)
Average driver = 213,625
06 – 210,320 – Nico Rosberg (up 6)
07 – 183,786 – Sergio Perez (down 3)
08 – 128,080 – Paul di Resta (up 7)
09 – 125,459 – Charles Pic (up 12)
10 – 120,527 – Romain Grosjean (up 4)
11 – 119,481 – Nico Hulkenberg (up 6)
12 – 97,722 – Daniel Ricciardo (up 4)
13 – 65,952 – Heikki Kovalainen (down 3)
14 – 65,346 – Jean-Eric Vergne (up 6)
337,919 – Mark Webber
85,990 – Pedro de la Rosa
85,212 – Bruno Senna
60,153 – Narain Karthikeyan
41,772 – Timo Glock
23,443 – Kamui Kobayashi
8,137 – Vitaly Petrov

After being overtaken by Fernando Alonso towards the end of 2012, Lewis Hamilton recorded the biggest increase of 2013. The order to some degree mirrors that of the first list, with a heavy Central and South American influence near to the top. A worthy mention further down goes to Charles Pic, noticeably one of the drivers who did not budge too much week-by-week in 2012, managed to pile on 125,000 followers throughout the entire of 2013 – going from 25,000 to 150,000 followers, meaning that he jumped ahead of several drivers. This surprised me a bit, but it may show how more people follow Caterham ‘as a team’ rather than Marussia, possibly explaining Pic’s large increase.

Despite moving to a more high profile team, Sergio Perez dropped three positions in comparison to his rivals where comparing the relative increases, whilst he fell behind Pastor Maldonaldo in the overall chart. The smallest increase year-on-year goes to Jean-Eric Vergne, although this should not be shocking considering he is part of one of the least socially active teams on Twitter in terms of identity. As for the non-F1 drivers, we can see what happens when you leave F1: you start gaining less followers per week! I am wondering though just why Vitaly Petrov has only gained 6,000 followers in 2013, seems incredibly low. Moving onto the teams…

677,460 – Ferrari
485,166 – McLaren
407,249 – Red Bull
363,365 – Mercedes
350,777 – Lotus
191,281 – Williams
175,082 – Sauber
172,720 – Force India
165,281 – Marussia
161,140 – Caterham
120,703 – Toro Rosso
62,880 – HRT

A significant change in 2013 was McLaren redeveloping their social media profile by renaming their Twitter channel. Instead of being called ‘TheFifthDriver’, they were now known as ‘McLarenF1’. Although the previous name did stand out for being different, I can see why they changed it to bring it in-line with just about everything else McLaren. The Fifth Driver no longer made sense for them to keep and hence, it was ditched. There are not many changes above, except that Williams jumped from tenth to sixth, so clearly they have done something right. The Maldonaldo effect, again? I’m not entirely sure why, but there is clearly some reason why both Maldonaldo and Williams jumped up in 2013.

And yes, there is a reason HRT is there…

Teams – Increases
01 – 275,153 – Ferrari (n/a)
02 – 206,895 – McLaren (up 1)
03 – 198,429 – Red Bull (down 1)
04 – 190,931 – Mercedes (up 2)
05 – 181,635 – Lotus (down 1)
Average team = 124,764
06 – 103,409 – Williams (down 1)
07 – 79,506 – Sauber (up 2)
08 – 76,358 – Force India (n/a)
09 – 68,644 – Marussia (down 2)
10 – 64,650 – Caterham (n/a)
11 – 60,739 – Toro Rosso (n/a)
12 – -9,176 – HRT (n/a)

…people actually unfollow others! Yes, HRT are now defunct, sadly, which meant no Twitter activity. From a social media point of view, it is rare to see people lose followers by a significant amount. So going from 72,000 to 63,000 is an interesting development as it means 9,000 people have unfollowed in the last twelve months. Either that, or HRT actually paid people to follow them, by buying ‘fake followers’. Which is quite an interesting point to mention the concept of ‘fake followers’. People can buy followers so they double or triple overnight. It is unlikely, but any F1 driver or team could do that. I could extend that to even myself, I could ‘buy’ 30,000 followers just to look good (not sure why I would, because it is just a number, and quality over quantity!).

Ferrari remained on top anyway here, and McLaren’s change of social media policy did not result in much, although they did leapfrog Red Bull. Mercedes and Lotus were not too far behind, one imagines Mercedes benefited hugely from the signing of Hamilton at the end of 2012. Outside of the top five, there is a gaggle beginning with Williams, as noted above. Toro Rosso’s numbers are pitiful, the team needs a non-Red Bull identity if it is going to get anywhere, but that doesn’t look like happening. Like FOM itself, Toro Rosso is one of the few that just has not exploited Twitter in the way it should have. It has to be said though that most of the F1 team numbers are relatively low in the grand scheme of things. Although it is a team sport, the fans follow drivers more than teams if the raw numbers are to go by.

Driver and Team statistics as of Monday 30th December 2013.

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