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Who’s on top in the Formula 1 social media world championship?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Jul 2011   |  6:57 pm GMT  |  52 comments

We’ve posted quite a bit on F1 and social media in recent months; particularly after the FOTA Fans Forum in Montreal where it was one of the key discussion points and also when I put some of the fans’ questions to Bernie Ecclestone about F1′s reluctance to push content out on social media.

Our colleagues at the leading French website Toile F1 have compiled some research on the subject, which is worth sharing and which highlights some interesting trends.

The sample was measured this week. The % column refers to the gain in popularity from the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, when the Forum took place, to now.

TEAM TWITTER RANKINGS
Ferrari tops the Twitter rankings, but as Head of Communications Luca Colajanni said in Montreal, the team does not allow its drivers to have Twitter accounts because it does not want any messages to be misconstrued. Communication is centrally controlled, unlike McLaren and Williams where the drivers have very powerful Twitter status.

It’s also interesting to note that Team Lotus trails Virgin in Twitter followers, despite being well ahead on Facebook.

TEAM FACEBOOK RANKINGS
The research team did not include Ferrari in this table because it doesn’t do much on Facebook. Here McLaren dominates with a very active Facebook scene, but it’s interesting to see Team Lotus in fourth place, given its status in the championship and the fact that the team is only in its second year of competition. However it’s rate of growth since Canada indicates that it needs to keep the momentum going. Williams has a very low figure because it only recently started a Facebook page.


DRIVER TWITTER RANKINGS
Rubens Barrichello dominates here, with over 1 million followers. All the South American drivers are well represented. As Williams boss Adam Parr pointed out, when Barrichello tweeted his delight that Williams had done a deal with Renault for engines, that had a significant value to Renault in Brazil.

Drivers are now increasingly leaned on by sponsors wanting them to link to some new initiative. As there is something going on all the time with teams’ sponsors, it’s going to be interesting to see how much the drivers are willing to let their Twitter space become commercialised.

It was amusing that at the Montreal Fans Forum, Parr said that he didn’t really get social media, while his team, Williams has been pushing hard lately on social media, launching a Facebook page (belatedly) and revamping its online activities. He’s since become far more ‘on message’ about social media.

The teams and sponsors clearly now all see the value in it.

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52 Comments
  1. It is also ironic that at the same FOTA meeting in Montreal, Ferrari declared its discomfort with social media and thus doesn’t have its drivers tweeting. They top the follower count on the team list.

    Fan engagement is greatly enhanced when social media is used effectively. We should be encouraging more of it, across the entire paddock.

    And that’s not a fake opinion ;)

    1. Sebee says:

      I’m not a twitter user because I simply don’t see the value in it. And one reason is the example with Rubens and Renault – illustrating that this is just another venue for corporations to pedal their wares.

      How much more commercial do we need to make this sport? Now drivers will be paid per tweet as they tell us how they’re docked in Monaco drinking Johnny? I’m almost glad that Alonso doesn’t tweet – we know (like Schumi) he doesn’t enjoy the limelight in his personal time. I don’t need to know when Alonso eats his Paella and if it’s seafood or mixed.

      I get his thoughts and quotes from here if they are relevant to a race. It’s already too much coverage if you ask me. At some point we have to recognize that F1 can’t consume our entire day. Between the races, testing, tweeting, facebook liking, websites – when will one eat or take a bathroom break? Information overload.

      Show up on the track and talk with your car and your driving. Eat your paella in privacy.

      1. James Allen says:

        In which case try my twitter aggregator, which pulls together all the tweets from teams, drivers, journos and insiders on a website, so no need to be a Twitter user – http://twitter.jamesallenonf1.com

      2. wayne says:

        James can we have your take on the BBC/SKY deal please! I have never felt so let down by F1 in 20 years. I love F1 but I cannot bare the thought of giving the Murdochs any of my hard earned cash so F1 as a sport is pretty-much dead to me as of next year. There is no point following half a season and no qualy is there? Terrible news for new and developing young fans whose exposure to the sport will be massively reduced in the UK.

      3. M00bie says:

        I completely agree with you on this. I am so angry about this decision. I love the BBC coverage and would be disappointed if it went back to itv or even channel 4 but to move off of free to air angers me.

        I have been to silverstone every year since Hamilton came into the sport and also been to see Hamilton (my favourite driver) race in monza and spa. So I am a true fan and willing to spend money on the sport.
        But I will not spend money on sky purely on principle!!!

        I have freeway hd and no intention of ever purchasing sky.

        I’m very upset…

      4. SimonR says:

        If you’d like to have your F1 related tweets be displayed on the site, suggest your twitterid at http://twitter.jamesallenonf1.com and we’ll add you to the fans list. Only tweets that mention F1 will be displayed. It’s a more real-time way of interacting with other JAF1 fans than the comments section of the blog.

      5. terryshep says:

        James, I have been doing that for ages! Just one of the benefits of JAllenonF1!

      6. Jack says:

        if you don’t see the value in it then you’ve not fully understood it, or seen it in action properly. It enhances a race so much, even Ferrari’s Twitter feed alone is great, telling you exactly what each driver is doing during practise sessions and then during the race it’s a source often used by the BBC commentary team because Ferrari provide so much information using it. And yeah, James’ site is really useful if you’re not a Twitter member

      7. Jeb Hoge says:

        Funny that you mention food…McLaren had a Facebook/Twitter feature a couple of weeks ago about the food services that the team uses while at races. I thought it was fascinating…it’s not just the cars that get premium fuel.

      8. Renato Nysan says:

        +1

    2. Andy C says:

      The great man on the JAonF1 site. Even if you are a canadian matey, we all enjoy your tweets…

      1. Thanks, Andy. I should disclose that I am a dual-citizen and hold a British passport as I was born in England.

      2. Andy c says:

        I knew you couldn’t possibly be that funny and Canadian!

        Now wheres my follow ;-)

        Keep up the good tweeting mate. Very funny.

  2. Chris says:

    Maybe you omitted them deliberately because they are third drivers, but Karun Chandhok has 58,696 followers, and Bruno Senna has 156,106.

    1. Curious, as Hulkenberg is also a third driver, but was included.

  3. Jeb Hoge says:

    Jenson Button has a great, active Twitter presence (both on and off-season) and it’s buoyed by friends like Chris Buncombe and McLaren’s “The Fifth Driver.” I haven’t followed Lewis as long but overall they do a really good job of representing the McLaren team.

    1. Sebee says:

      Since you follow, do you find commercial/sponsor content on there regularly? As they specify a brand when they participate in an event? Or is it a window for you into their lives?

      For someone who doesn’t see the value of twitter, what exactly do you get out of it as a fan above/beyond the race weekend on-track action?

      1. Jack says:

        the McLaren drivers don’t commercialise their Twitter accounts as far as I’ve ever seen, it just provides an interesting insight into the life of a Formula One driver away from the track, as well as a way of hearing their opinion on something (if you’re interested in that sort of thing). In terms of the team accounts, they provide loads of photos from testing, filming days, the factories etc, as well as competitions and stuff like that. It’s obviously a bit more commercial but much more to promote the team than any other sponsor really.

      2. Jeb Hoge says:

        They do mention sponsor stuff (Johnnie Walker or Vodafone) at times but it’s nowhere near as invasive as, say, NASCAR racers dropping sponsor names in every other sentence. More like “Here’s a picture of the Johnnie Walker yacht that we’re about to get on.” (What a life…poor sods) During race season, you might see (as we did today) Lewis or Jenson commenting on arriving at the track, what the weather’s like, what they’re going to be doing in the next day or so, who they’re with…in some ways, they’re doing their own color commentary. In the off-season, Jenson did a lot of tweeting about his triathlon training and who he was working with (including Lance Armstrong last winter). It’s just more personal, in some ways more interesting (Lewis tweeted a picture of Jenson posing with a parasol a while back), and more direct than typical press channels.

      3. DC says:

        I follow them both as a McLaren fan and i’m not a big twitter fan either. What you get is a little more insight into them as people.

        Lewis doesn’t tweet much, but he uses it to say thank you and tell you how he’s feeling about a race. He also used it to apologise after his Monaco race! (not that he needed to, of course, but that is another argument!)

        Jenson tends to post more about his life, his triathlons for example and he congratulates a lot of other sportsman, such as Mark Canvendish in the Tour de France. I’ve learnt some stuff from that and don’t mind it.

        I like Heikki kovalainen’s tweets too, although he talks a lot about golf!!

        For me though, a great thing about twitter is you get some great pictures tweeted that gives you a unique point of view. Sometimes the pics are taken by someone else, but often they are taken by Lewis or Jenson or Heikki or whoever and that is really interesting. Mark Webber often tweets great pictures.

        I never really got the idea of Twitter, and i’m a software engineer who owns a web development company!! I always thought it was about millions of ordinary people telling you about their lives when you really couldn’t care less. But when interesting and famous people tweet then it can be fascinating (although not always!), as it’s a means for them to communicate daily if they wish and it feels quite one to one at times.

        I’d sign up and follow a few names from the list in the article. You might surprise yourself! I only follow 21 people and most of them are from F1. And I read tweets on a daily basis.

      4. Pandabater says:

        I follow only a couple of drivers & riders & mainly follow journos, photgraphers & pit crew. I use Twitter as an instant news service for Practice/Quali/Race. It can be a little distracting but I am more informed with what is going on. BTW I live in Australia so time difference gets in the way of news at times.

  4. @duskyblogF1 says:

    Good to see McLaren (@thefifthDriver) and Lewis Hamilton in Top 3 of each of the Social Media categories. Cyberspace imitating real-life or vice-versa?

  5. Sebee says:

    These charts don’t look much different than the championship standings. Williams – wow!?

    I guess the fans have spoken and the “old hand” in the field is most followed. And since Twitter was up as Rubens was out of Ferrari – it’s really extremely impressive he’s that far ahead. After Schumi sees this he’ll set up an account perhaps.

    Remember how we were chatting as to who on the grid would be a good replacement to Lewis if he was to leave? Perhaps Rubens would be a good candidate for a McLaren seat? Certainly he’s more likely to connect with the more mature F1 audience which buys Mercedes/McLarens and wears Hugo Boss Black, and drinks Johny Walker Blue? I bet if you took a poll you’d see most people who consume these products are in the 40s and will connect more with a mature man than a “kid”?

  6. Arshadhusain says:

    james

    just love the content !!!

  7. Mario Senna says:

    The scale of driver figures vs team figures clearly show that the commercial value is on drivers. I don’t see teams disclosing developments…. Other than that, I believe that fans are interested in more racing data! I am not sure if they should be commercialized as populating them for free (with comments!)would raise understanding for the sport and subsequently the general public’s interest (F1 IS amazing, many people just don’t know…)

  8. Abhijeet says:

    I wonder if they counted just followers on Twitter or also when these guys are added to a list and not followed. It might add to the numbers above.

    Personally, I keep every F1 related twitter on a separate list, mainly to avoid any spoilers since I watch the races a few hours after the event (Most races are at 4AM in my time zone).

  9. RobH says:

    Interesting, here’s why:
    I’m your average F1 fan & I have a facebook & Twitter account. I don’t “like” any of the teams & drivers on fb (apart from McLaren) as I deem Facebook to be more “personal” to me.
    As for Twitter, I follow them all…!
    To me, Twitter is for info, as an example I followed Sergio Perez after his Monaco accident to get updates 1st hand.
    Both have their place in F1 & social media but I wouldn’t say they’re scientific when it comes to fan counts etc.
    Of course I follow you James.. ;)

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks. I went through 40,000 Twitter followers today. Not bad. Still a fraction of the audience of this site, though,

      1. Racyboy says:

        Your a STAR James,
        I remember when you hit your first 1000.
        I don’t use social media for my actual life, but I do have a twitter account for F1 and MotoGP…mainly for news, and I get a kick out of some of the comments and photos that the drivers post, and your tweets are a must during the race.
        Rosberg’s post race vids on youtube are great as well…should be more of it.

  10. S.J.M says:

    Strange that the current WDC isnt even figured in the Twitter rankings. Is he on it? I can only imagine he’s not.

    1. Andy C says:

      No he isnt. Not the real one anyway as far as I’m concerned.

  11. Bru72 says:

    Hi James interesting stats. It might be worth adding that Ferrari’s facebook page, which isn’t exclusively F1, but Ferrari in general, currently has 4,858,825 fans.

  12. Laura says:

    You missed out Paul from the driver rankings :( He should be 14th – he has 25,268 followers!

  13. PFF1 says:

    More important than the number of followers is the quality. In my opinion Mike Gascoyne deserves a mention. barrichello, Kovalainen and Webber are the best tweeting drivers. renault the most interesting team.

    A raspberry to Nico Rosberg who’s tweets are produced by his webteam.

    1. **Paul** says:

      I’d agree with your best of Twitter selections, although I’d add a couple more to the raspberry list, notably Jenson Button (who rarely tweets anything of interest and lots about training) and Lewis Hamilton (who’s tweets are basically made up of ‘this is for my boyz/hommies’ and ‘peace and love everyone’). Both are pretty shocking tbh, that reminds me I must unfollow JB!

      Perhaps some F1 boys could take a lead from Jason Plato, although I’m not a fan of his he does a decent job on twitter. He comes across as a pretty normal guy on there, and a whole lot more likeable than when he’s in ‘racing driver’ mode.

      That said the Rory McIlroy thing perhaps explains some drivers absences from the medium.

  14. rvd says:

    Fascinating article, some in-depth analysis of the rankings could probably justify a column of it’s own.

  15. docjkm says:

    Meh!

    Tends to be a lowest common denominator approach.

    140 characters and onward. Have looked, rejected, and disdain.

    1. Sebee says:

      Agreed.

      But for some they feel like they are “friends” and are getting a personal text directly from Lewis.

  16. The Talent says:

    Interesting to see that current World Champion and championship leader Seb Vettel does not have a twitter account.
    He seems to be a very private person. I can remeber him saying something like “My girlfriend is not welcome at work” when asked why he doesn’t bring her to races.
    Might be a nice article to inspect this aspect of his personality, James?

  17. Mario Senna says:

    James, this one’s of the matter but maybe worth digging deeper:

    Michael Schumacher interiew on f1.com (19.07):
    Q: You are having a dinner party and can invite four people from the world of motorsport, past or present. Who do you invite?
    MS: Ross (Brawn), Norbert (Haug), Jean (Todt) and Luca (di Montezemolo).

    Nico Rosberg interiew on f1.com (28.07):
    Q: If you were to compare your driving style with Michael Schumacher’s, how would you describe it?
    NR: In principal very similar. Maybe I would need a more balanced car than him, but other than this we have a very similar way of driving.
    Q: In what areas does the car need to improve for next year, to be competitive against the leading teams?
    NR: I would not say that in our case you could divide this into areas. It is the basis of the car that needs to be much better, and this already starts with the teamwork within the team. We have to start working as one entity, and also have more creative input to become stronger.

    Even though these quotes are taken out of context, I cleraly see an issue here… This is as subtile as Nico being marked Mercedes’ number two driver even on UBS race graphics. Is Nico starting to be fed up?!

  18. Martin says:

    I’ve got a twitter account mainly for getting more info from F1. The best team in my opinion for involving the fans and keeping you informed is Team Lotus. They do a great job covering everything that is happening, even their aero tests and always providing pics of whats going on.

    McLaren are getting there with their #SocialFriday q&a sessions.

    As far as the drivers go none really seem that interesting Mark Webber isn’t bad and Karun’s feed is usually informative but then he’s half journalist at the moment. If you want to be entertained by drivers you have to look to the BTCC guys.

    Lewis Hamilton doesn’t post often but when he does its pretty genuine and about how he’s feeling. Button’s quite often seem to be more commercial.

  19. Saigonmark says:

    Living in SE Asia we get all the F1 races live but the content of the commentary is lacking. Following people like NOBLEF1, Jamesallenonf1, sarahholtf1, adamcooperf1 & byronf1 to name just a few who constantly tweet throughout the duration of the race is highly informative. In the days building up to the race tweets (and hyperlinks to web articles I would never find normally) keep me up to speed. I too was sceptical at first but now over a race weekend I would never be without my iPhone & Twitter page.

    James, this is my first post! I followed your column on ITV-F1 then migrated across here on the first day . As an Expat F1 fan this site adds greatly to my overall enjoyment of following F1. Keep up the good work & thanks.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for your comment

  20. tim says:

    Twitter is great for hardcore fans to glean more information, especially technical and personal information. I would follow a driver or team for that. But I think the worry that it could become another way for sponsors to push their brands is valid: I’d love to read a driver’s thoughts on their setup, or the tires or a new development part on the car; I would not want to read them telling me how great their life is thanks to their name-brand Swiss watch or their smartphone or whatever other company is paying them money to Tweet.

  21. mo kahn says:

    Like it or not, counted or not… Ferrari drivers… irrelevant to their names, countries and race… are special… period :)

  22. Andy C says:

    I started off not quite seeing the point of twitter, but there are some really great guys on there in relation to F1

    fake charlie whiting (excellent humour)
    jenson button
    adam cooper
    james (of course)
    grand prix diary (hilarious)

    James,
    anywhere we can put our suggestions for fans of twitter to follow people? Its a great medium for reaching out to people actually in F1 (most of whom actually answer questions.

    For anyone who is as unconvinced of twitter and how effective it can be as a for instance this week I’ve spoken on twitter with Rubens, Paul Hembery, Simon B (McLaren team lead production), eddie cheever, Peter Windsor.

    What other method of social media would allow me to get close to those types without stalking LOL

    By the way, we setup a #jaonf1fans hashtag some time back for my twitter f1 friends (we met on this site. Great bunch of guys.

    1. SimonR says:

      Well post them here and any that we haven’t got in the twitter aggregator we’ll add. We don’t display any fake accounts, even though they can be very funny at times, as it does break twitter’s terms of service and presents legal issues.

      Follow @jaf1tweets for all the F1 news you can manage on twitter, and @jaf1videos which also has links to any youtube videos posted to F1 accounts on youtube.

      Enjoy!

      1. @IamLewis4Fake says:

        Technically that is incorrect Simon, ‘Twitter TOS’ dont mention fakes, only ‘Twitter Rules’ does:

        - Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others

        I can understand ‘fakes’ pretending to be real being barred from some services on here. However, it seems a shame to bar ‘fakes’ that are clearly fake, as this does not break any of twitters rules, and we all love F1 as much as the next petrolhead, often more.
        Anyway, brilliant site, I just wanted to set the record straight. Keep up the good work :-)

  23. mistersquash says:

    Do you remember that live interview Rubens did with the BBC after the race when Schumi pushed him to the pit wall? ‘Tweet me what you thought of that!’ he said to us and I signed up to twitter and followed him immediately. I also remember watching the followers going up and up minute by minute!!!!

  24. jmv says:

    If there should be A social media initiative for F1, James, you should be leading it!

    You are ahead of the curve. We love what you are doing. The twitter page is an amazing source of keeping informed about F1 news and rumors!

  25. Allie says:

    I know Indy Racing isn’t F1, but when Dario Franchitti and Will Power collided at Toronto, (I think), Will was upset and had comments after the race and they ended up continuing their spat on twitter. Made for some entertaining reading! I can’t see any of the F1 drivers doing that but it would make them seem more human. A lot of their twitter seem like robots. (Lewis and Mark do seem to be a bit more genuine than the rest)

  26. gudien says:

    Once again a very good article with new information no other F-1 site has. Keep it up James, we count on you.

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