The Formula 1’s Race to Social Media

Jean-Francois Marquis    March 3, 2016

Social media experts know exactly what impressions, reach, klout, community growth and engagement mean. Although, these words seem familiar to us, they might not be for your CEO.

One of the hardest challenges for social media experts is to quantify the monetary return on investment (ROI) of social media. How can you convince the investment with metrics that are unfamiliar to the upper management of your company?

Social media wise, the infamous Formula 1 has been considered a dinosaur on social media, and it might have been because of its Chief Executive.

When the CEO does not see the value of social media

Formula 1’s Chief Executive did not believe in social media, and he made it crystal clear:

“I have been looking at this Twitter thing and I can’t see anything on there except [Mercedes F1 team boss] Toto Wolff and one of my daughters. How does that help Formula One?” -Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive of the Formula One Group

Bernie Ecclestone told Forbes in December 2014 that he did not really believe in social media because ‘it doesn’t make any money for a start’.

CEOs may be a difficult crowd when trying to justify the investment needed for social media. Ecclestone has proven to be one of them.

Crossing the line of social media

Seeing that the NASCAR competition was very popular on social media, Formula 1 has decided to cross the line and join social media… but in their own way.

Ecclestone is famously known to have made billions of dollars in TV broadcasts. The broadcast rights have been so expensive that Canada has almost lost its Montreal Grand Prix back in 2008.

The ‘F1 Supremo’, as called in the media, decided to join social media at one condition… that nothing that is broadcasted on TV was to appear on social media. Twitter was only to broadcast exclusive footage unseen on TV like interviews with the pilots and backstage images.

A team of eight people is now managing the F1’s Twitter account from the Formula One Management head quarters in London, England according to Jeff Pappone from the Globe and Mail.

Was it worth it?

One thing Ecclestone and his social media team all agree on, is the success they’ve had on Twitter. They measure their success with growth, interaction and appreciation. Ecclestone probably found a way to see the real ROI of social media. The F1 joined Twitter back in 2009, but it is just in late 2013 that it decided to really take full ownership of its account. Since then, the community growth has been spectacular, reaching a community growth of 1.86M followers.

They also claim that the hashtag #GrandPrix even reaches 80M impressions. You will never see the @F1 account reply to a fan, except if it’s for buying the official app… There might be room for improvement on customers’ engagement with their approach.

What about their Klout Score?

The Klout Score is a number from 1 to 100 defining your social media influence, the bigger the number, the bigger the influence you have.

@F1 has a Klout Score of 79, which is not bad at all… but let’s compare with others to see how they rank overall:

While they have had some success, Formula 1 has been highly critized for taking the plunge on social media. If you haven’t watched it already, take a look at the video above, an interesting interview with Joe Brown, Executive director of

Lessons for Others

While some company leaders still need to be convinced of the return on investment with social media, it is hardly arguable that the success metrics can be misinterpreted. There are many metrics out there… while I personally doubt of the sentiment (positive, neutral or negative comments about a brand), some other metrics are definitely accurate and easily demonstrate the success your brand can have on social media.

While making research for this blog post, I was surprised to see companies chosing just a few key performance indicators (KPI) to measure their success. Most companies rely all on the same ones as the Formula 1 team: Impressions, Reach, Engagement, Growth and Click-through rate.

There are many tools to help you out there with measuring your social media efforts, some which can be very expensive… I have been using these tools for many years now, and I must admit that Facebook and Twitter’s insights have proven to be reliable and free! Learn how to use them, and see which metric is important to your business.

Organization: Formula 1
Industry: Automobile Racing
Name of Organization Contact: Mehul Kapadia, Managing Director, F1 Business

Authored by: Jean-Francois Marquis

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.