The youngest line-up on the grid in 2015 of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz not only made an impact on the track, but they also made an impact off it as Toro Rosso jumped up the social media standings. Analysis from The F1 Broadcasting Blog shows that, across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the team is close to overtaking Sauber whilst recording higher increases than the likes of Williams and Lotus since July. That was not the only social media story in the latter half of 2015.
Overall, the 2015 Formula One season was disastrous for McLaren, with an unreliable Honda engine down on power affecting their performance throughout the season. Their social media highlight was generated by the average fan from off the street. #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe quickly became a trend following the Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying session and was a moment of light relief during what was a sombre weekend due to events outside of the paddock. McLaren’s performance on the track hurt their social media following off the circuit. McLaren started the Summer with 4.37 million accounts following them across the three main social media platforms, climbing to 4.71 million accounts as the season came to a close, an increase of 7.6 percent. Only Mercedes, Manor and Lotus recorded a lower percentage increase during the second half of 2015, showing that McLaren’s poor on track performance had a negative impact when it came to a social media meaning that they were unable to further exploit the McLaren brand name.
Mercedes’ percentage increase of 6.0 percent is the lowest of any team in the field, but when you’re coming from a high user base in the first place, a lower percentage increase than the midfield teams should be expected. An increase from 11.90 million to 12.61 million accounts following their activities is still a sizeable increase for the Brixworth based team. McLaren’s poor performance not only affected the brand following, but also adversely affected Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button’s following. Button’s following increased 9.9 percent compared with the Summer, however Alonso’s percentage increased only 3.9 percent, from a combined audience of 4.00 million to 4.16 million. Those are not good numbers for what is supposed to be one of Formula 1’s biggest drivers, and is further proof of why Formula 1 needs a successful McLaren as soon as feasibly possible.
Is Max Verstappen the future?
Alonso’s raw increase of 156,000 from July to December was the eighth highest in the field, again across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Up front you had Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the latter recording an increase of a whopping 1.21 million followers largely due to a huge uplift in Instagram numbers. Hamilton’s numbers will only surge further as he tries to break America. Behind the Mercedes drivers you had Button, Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa. No major surprises there, Ricciardo continung to get a boost from his fantastic 2014 season. In sixth position, and ahead of Alonso, enter Verstappen. At the half-way stage of the 2015 season, a combined audience of 247,000 were following Verstappen’s activities. That number climbed to 479,000, a whopping increase of 94.1 percent! Facebook led the way from a percentage perspective for Verstappen, increasing from 57,000 to 118,000. Of course, these numbers are miniscle in comparison to Lewis Hamilton, whose increase of 1.21 million since the Summer dwarfed the majority of the field. But a year or two from now? If Verstappen continues to perform on the circuit, then who knows. Based on the latter half of this season, I would expect Verstappen’s combined audience to quickly surpass one million in early-2016.
We should not forget Carlos Sainz, Jnr and the Toro Rosso team as a whole in the Verstappen puzzle. In the second half of 2015, Sainz’s following has increased 44.6 percent from 273,000 to 395,000. The reason Sainz has fallen behind Verstappen is because the Dutchman has surged ahead on Facebook, whereas Sainz’s increase since the Summer has been relatively slow in comparison. Toro Rosso is the only big surprise from a team perspective, jumping by 282,000 followers from July to December, an increase of 44.8 percent. I suspect as soon as either Verstappen or Sainz switch teams then Toro Rosso’s following will stagnate again. Either way, they have made enough of an impression to climb over the back of Sauber’s gearbox and has, for the moment, given them an identity.
All social media outlets have grown in size and stature versus July, but it was Instagram who jumped the biggest, with their Formula 1 reach growing from a cumulative total of 5.34 million to 8.57 million, an increase of over three million accounts. As a result, Instagram’s Formula 1 market share on social media increased from 9.0 percent to 12.8 percent at the expense of both Facebook and Twitter. Bear in mind that all numbers presented in this piece are a combined count, there is no way to work out distinct people across different social media sites. What we do know is that 2.29 million people follow Lewis Hamilton on Instagram, so the distinct count of accounts that follow F1 related accounts on Instagram is probably around the ~5 million range.
We come to the end of another season though where I place the URL https://www.facebook.com/F1 in the middle of a post and I get the result “Page not found.” To see that heading into 2016 is immensely disappointing and frustrating. Why there is such a barrier towards creating exciting, innovative and groudbreaking content for Facebook users, I do not know. We knew Facebook would come later than Twitter and Instagram in terms of content, Marissa Pace, part of the Formula One Digital Media team told us that this time last year. And at a time when Formula 1’s viewing figures are dropping as the population exploits new and emerging technologies, having a presence on Facebook is more critical in my opinion than ever before. The now infamous #SepangClash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez during this year’s MotoGP championship was viewed 15 million times on Facebook. You cannot buy numbers like that, and you cannot let opportunities like that slip through your figures. The longer Formula One Management waits to exploit Facebook, the harder their task becomes, it is as simple as that. #SepangClash was also a fantastic example of on the spot thinking from Dorna’s social media team, instantly creating that hashtag to drive conversation across every platform: TV and online. It was successful, and it kept MotoGP in the spotlight between Sepang and Valencia. Something for F1 to learn should a big on-track clash occur in 2016.
Whilst Facebook is yet to come, the team at FODM have done some fantastic work creating content for both Twitter and Instagram. Really, this season has been what you should expect from those platforms, with discussion based talking points, fan voting and video content being posted, the video content in conjunction with SnappyTV. Understandably, there has not been video content posted ‘live’ yet given the agreements FOM have with broadcasters’. Over on YouTube, archive footage is the clear winner, something that is became more apparent as the season progressed. This reminds me of when BBC returned to Formula 1 in 2009. Fans made it clear to the BBC that they wanted archive footage, and the same message is being put to FOM now.
Most watched videos on Formula 1’s official YouTube channel
1. 639,000 – The Fastest Lap in F1 History: Montoya at Monza (uploaded 3 months ago)
2. 582,000 – Top 5 Overtakes Of The Last 5 Years (uploaded 4 months ago)
3. 428,000 – F1’s Greatest Lap? Ayrton Senna at Donington 1993 (uploaded 8 months ago)
4. 324,000 – Your Favourite Belgian Grand Prix – 1998 Chaos & Carnage in Spa (uploaded 3 months ago)
5. 299,000 – Your Favourite Monaco Grand Prix – 1992 Senna v Mansell (uploaded 6 months ago)
The question for FOM going into 2016 has to be, how do they exploit their archive without treading on broadcasters’ toes? Of course, FOM own any footage filmed inside a race track, but putting extensive archive highlights online may rub broadcasters’ up the wrong way. I do think there is middle ground though, and certainly one that should be investigated. I think there is a market for creating 20 minute highlight packages of past classic races for the YouTube market. All of FOM’s videos so far have been ‘bite size’, clocking in at under five minutes. The benefit of creating longer highlights packages now of archive races will help them later, if they were to go down the ‘F1 Network‘ route sometime. Again, with viewing figures from the traditional viewing methods dropping, the potential for an over the top network has to be considered within the next few years.
In terms of their social media following, Formula One Management’s two accounts on Instagram and Twitter respectively have increased from a combined audience of 1.71 million in July to 2.36 million, an increase of 37.7 percent. In comparison to the teams (see the first figure in this post), that is a huge increase and shows how important it is for FOM to have a profile on social media. Instagram is the main factor in the increase, jumping 395,000 followers despite a much lower base than Twitter. The good news is that Formula 1 teams, drivers and media are exploiting Instagram more than previously, and that is replicated in the numbers. Whilst Formula One Management smashed into social media in March, at the same time the team also relaunched the official Formula 1 website. The relaunch seems to have been successful, the old version of the website let us not forget was horrendously behind the times from what you would expect out of a modern-day site.
The biggest part of the website relaunch was F1 Access. The main difficulty in the early days was that the website version of F1 Access failed to link to the app version of F1 Access. To be honest, I have not purchased F1 Access. I know it is only £2.29 a month, but as of writing I haven’t heard anyone shout from the rooftops about it. Is there anything in F1 Access that, as a fan, I desperately need to get my hands on? I suspect not, and until there is a compelling reason for me to subscribe to F1 Access, I can’t see myself subscribing anytime soon. Looking ahead to 2016, I think FOM to some degree can continue to do what they are currently doing on Twitter and Instagram. Some exploration needed in relation to YouTube, and a kick-start needed on Facebook sooner rather than later.