Digital Media Cafe Blog – Featuring Formula One, Social Media Milestones and Formula-E – David Granger

October 9, 2014

Social Support: #ForzaJules

We begin though with the terrible accident which happened at the Suzuka circuit at the Japanese Grand Prix. We’d like to wish the Marussia driver Jules Bianchi a speedy recovery. As do a lot of other fans out there.

It’s in times of real tragedy, like this, that the social mediasphere actually comes into its own. We were able to hear from drivers, fans and teams expressing their best wishes to the French driver and gave F1 a real sense of community.

Added to this were the two hashtags which were used to demonstrate fans’ support – one was Forza Jules and the other was Dress For Jules which encouraged fans to wear red – he’s a member of the Ferrari driver programme – and then post images of themselves in red to show they’re behind Bianchi yesterday – October 7.

Both were organic, unorganised and genuine. One brand which didn’t get it so spot-on though were DHL. F1’s official logisitics partner came in for some fairly heavy criticism for asking their followers to ‘Like’ an image on their timeline to demonstrate support for Bianchi.

Clearly it was well intentioned, but it does demonstrate two things. Firstly that it’s worth brands’ community managers thinking several times before posting anything about sensitive events, and that asking for ‘Likes’ is never a good idea. DHL have subsequently apologised and removed the offending post.

Fan Milestones: Millions of Followers

Two social media milestones were reached recently as FC Barcelona proudly boasted 100 million social media followers and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney hit 10 million followers on his Twitter account.

The 100 million may not be 100 million separate fans for the Spanish team of course. It’s a great headline, but like many social media headlines is one which needs a little scrutiny.

The club has more than 75 million Facebook Likes, with the other 25 million coming from  followers on Google+, Twitter and YouTube.

But this is not, according to social media analysts numKrunch going to be 100 million fans – there will be the same fans following on two different channels, some will be fans of other clubs as well and some will be interested  in individual players rather than the club.

But it is as ever a demonstration of the reach clubs now have and how widely they and sponsors can communicate with global fans.

Mr Rooney’s own total makes him the fifth most followed player in the world. And for his followers, the England captain serves up a decent mix of images of himself, re-tweets when requested and a running commentary on boxing matches as well as his own games.

We’ll have a link to his feed and the Barcelona channels on this week’s blog.

Formula E: A Boost Too Far

At the end of November the second Formula E round takes place – this time in Malaysia. And as previously in the inaugural round in China, three lucky drivers will get a burst of speed thanks to FanBoost.

FanBoost is perhaps taking social media in sport one step too far. Essentially fans vote via the series website or app and the three drivers with the most votes come race day get a surge in power for two and a half seconds during the race.

Formula E has had some great positives: it’s forward-thinking, it has female drivers who regularly race, it’s coming to street circuits other formulae can’t race at and it has its own DJ, or Formula EJ who plays during and after the event.

But the FanBoost seems a marketing idea which should have stayed on the whiteboard.

Interaction and engagement with drivers and teams should be a little less forced and when the media starts to interfere with the competition itself, then the sport is in danger of becoming less about skill and technology and more about marketing click-bait.

It’s a shame as Formula E is a genuinely exciting prospect and let’s hope they rationalise a few of the less useful distractions.

Having spent eight seasons in Formula One managing the digital channels for world champions Red Bull Racing, David Granger now runs Fact 51, a social and digital content agency.

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