The opening-lap elimination of three of the top four qualifiers at the F1 Singapore Grand Prix provided the most dramatic moment of the Formula 1 season so far.
But before Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen or Max Verstappen had even climbed out of their cars, an tweet posted by @ScuderiaFerrari ensured that the fall-out on social media would be immense – for 24 hours, at least.
Tweeting simply ‘VER took #Kimi7 out and then he went to #Seb5 #SingaporeGP’ the person with the keys to the team’s account proved how a careless use of language can create a very unwelcome storm. As soon as the incident happened, the tweet laid the blame firmly at the feet of Red Bull racer Verstappen.
Yet, six-and-a-half thousand responses to this tweet showed just how vehemently an engaged F1 audience wanted to take issue with this assertion.
Ferrari, whose reputation as poor communicators precede them, did themselves no favours by reinforcing their position three-and-a-half hours later with a follow-up tweet.
The underlying message was clearly ‘what do you know from your armchairs? And also stop slating us.’
This not only angered the fair-minded individuals who simply disagreed with the earlier pronouncement, but also fed the all-too-common trolls, who couldn’t resist the temptation to take things up a notch. Former F1 driver Mark Webber (fair-minded, not a troll) even responded curtly with:
Unlike press releases, tweets don’t go through several layers of team management for sign-off before publication; there simply isn’t time for that.
This, in turn, means that a social media manager must shoulder considerable responsibility; especially when the account they administer has nearly two million followers (an audience around 100,000 times larger than your average media database).
Ferrari’s response to the incident was not only badly-judged (presuming it wasn’t simply lost in translation); it was arrogant and incendiary. And yet the whole scenario could have been all-so-easily avoided.
A factual tweet describing the incident when it happened would have read more like ‘Contact between VER, #Kimi7 and #Seb5. Both Ferraris out.’ Notice the difference? Same incident reported, but no blame apportioned until more of the facts were known.
To avoid a similar situation arising on your watch, here’s a few tips from us;
- Make sure your facts are just that. FACTS.
- Leave it to someone else to apportion blame; the event officials or even your driver or team through a direct quote. If it’s their truly-held belief that someone was in the wrong then let them express it, but be sure to explain the positives and negatives of doing so to them first.
- If you do feel compelled to apportion blame, be prepared to apologise immediately if you get it wrong.
- Should you end up with a situation like Ferrari, don’t ‘like’ or retweet any comments. You don’t want to look like you’re fanning the flames by reinforcing an already unpopular position.
If you want more advice on the appropriate use of social media in motorsport and how to avoid landing yourself in hot water, then get in touch with us today.