As we head into the 2012 Formula One season, I wanted to share with you some thoughts I had about the series and it's burgeoning social media, as well as online approach, to the world.
Formula One is behind the curve of adoption. I won't belabor the point on all the things it hasn't done but suffice to say it is starting to awake and realize that "new media" (there isn't such a thing) and "social media" (it's dog-eared at best) is the way to go now.
Unfortunately it's too late for that "me too" mentality for F1. NASCAR couldn't talk about Twitter enough during the 2012 Daytona 500. In fact, it bordered on embarrassing to have a group of baby-boomers such as DW, MW, Larry Mac and others wax poetic about the splendors of Twitter. I'm not picking on them because I love their tweets but these guys were glowing over the service like finding a new Taylor Made driver that was made of...gasp...metal!
F1's plan for free
Fact is, I'm going to help F1 for free. I hope they appreciate the efforts I've put into this post for their benefit exclusively.
Social media produces a stream of information (be it Facebook or Twitter) and that stream is consumed by fans/consumers. The problem F1 has to understand is that the consumer model has changed...radically. Google sums it up best with their ode-to-P&G re-working of the first moment of truth...whether you subscribe to the theory or not.
What F1 must also understand is that consumers and businesses are beginning the first stages of info-fatigue. The problem is that companies are now almost too connected and they are having a hard time making sense of a massive flow of information.
Consumers are also struggling to keep up with the flow of information and are starting to bend under the weight of the amount and rapidity of information. Following a prominent F1 news account on Twitter, all the reporter's Twitter accounts for that news agency, the team's Twitter accounts, driver's Twitter accounts and pundit's Twitter accounts of the series during one day of testing is enough to prompt serious fatigue.
Sure, I hear you; "just stop following them or reading them idiot!". Yes, that's seems logical doesn't it? Except the act of "un-follow" or "un-friend" is not so easy when you actually do want 30% of their content most other times.
Nothing exemplifies this more than the early days of Twitter when followers would scream at an account about giving away the results of a race saying "way to go jerk! How about a SPOILER ALERT: before posting results?". Yes, I think they finally learned.
You see, the issue isn't really manifest in the act of simply not reading. The timeline is massive and the mad dash to "follow" as many people as possible has only created a bigger flow that spreads like prairie grass over the fertile mind of consumption.
The silent culling process
The key here is the "un-follow" or "un-friend" act. What is that? Actually, let's take my analogy a big further. It is the act of harvesting particular fields of information. When you silently un-follow, you've culled your field and made your job of harvesting relevant information a tad easier. Why is this important?
F1 needs to think of it this way, consumers have consistently been wooed to "like" or "follow" brands/companies. The payoff for doing so has become a timeline (be it Facebook or Twitter) that is loaded with silly news, brand updates and the occasional contest. That flow has become a nuisance and white noise to most consumers because brands aren't doing one important thing...
Defining the level of relationship investment and setting an agenda for soliciting the fan's "follow" or "friend". There is no real reward for doing so.
How deep and at what level is F1 willing to invest in building the relationship they want with their consumers? If they have determined that, what is the agenda? What does the fan/consumer gain from "friending" or "following" the brand? Silly contests and news that's parroted by this blog, news agencies and F1 journalists the world over? That hardly seems worth it does it?
In the end, F1 should realise that consumers have the power to narrow the corn-head on their combine and harvest only what they want and those that the consumer chooses to "follow" or "friend" will have engaged the consumer/fan in a meaningful way...otherwise, the brand will face the cull and miss the harvest.
What F1 needs
What does F1 need to do? Simple, determine how much they are willing to invest in the consumer relationship and then define what their offering really is. What are they willing to do in return for the consumer's loyalty or interest? F1 has a ripe catalog of resources that are revenue-worthy and yet they choose to sequester that content far away from the consumer.
They have a new relationship with Tata Communications which could be the first sign of a new digital strategy for them but what are they productising and how does the consumer benefit from making sure F1 is not part of the silent culling process that filters them our of the timeline of consumer attention? If they treat the consumer attention as a passive engagement, the consumer's interest will eventually become a passive engagement...if you are lucky. Most likely it will become a part of their culling process.
Let's be blunt...consumers are through the initial hype of social media and they are now facing info-fatigue or timeline-tiredness. They will get wise to the fact that this novel idea of trying to ride the wild information timeline, that the broadcast marketing machine may still make a lot of sense. Sure, they couldn't control it but it didn't give you a headache or make you want to "un-follow" the world.
Don't "me too" Formula one, jump three steps ahead and do this right the first time.