Social media is firmly in the midst of its third generation, commonly known as generation C, as its users are content creators, curators and connectors of the online community.
This was clearly demonstrated during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend, when F1 fans pounced on Fernando Alonso’s cheeky public sunbathing, following his retirement from qualifying, to create a meme that generated global interest.
The accompanying hashtag, #placesalonsowouldratherbe, spawned over 14,500 posts, with users showing their creativity and natural humour by placing the Spaniard in humorous locations as he reclined in a marshal’s chair.
This moment of mirth was the highlight of an otherwise dull weekend but it demonstrates something so much more important. That fans want to be engaged with, and that they want to engage with one another.
This principle has been known by those working in consumer PR for years now but few sports have had the courage to engage with their fans in this way, much to their own detriment.
Interestingly, the official F1 Twitter account did not become involved in the hashtag fun. And therein lies the problem. Humour is one of the key motivators for all of us but it is often overlooked by brands as they fear that it will push people away, when in fact it is likely to create a greater connection with followers.
Much like a teenager being turned off a band because their parent likes their songs, sometimes it is best for the brand to say out of the conversation and not crash the party. But for a troubled entity such as F1, which is seen as being behind-the-times and out of touch with its fans – particularly on social media –it is essential to show that it is aware of what is current and seen to be important by its supporters.
Let us hope that this social moment can be learnt from, as well as enjoyed, and that F1 will follow in the footsteps of series like Formula E, where fans are embraced as the heart of the sport.
Here are some of the best #placesalonsowouldratherbe from across the weekend.