If there is one thing in life that really gets my goat, it’s when people don’t use the best tool.
Sometimes people don’t know that a better tool exists. Sometimes they know it exists, but they don’t know that it is better. Sometimes they try the better tool, but the tool doesn’t stick for them.
Nowhere does this ring more true than when talking about social media, and in particular Google+.
Ever since its launch in September 2011 it has been the recipient of much unfounded criticism, with nonsense claims of it being a ghost town and many pundits prophesy its failure, despite the fact it is woven into nearly all of Google’s product and services.
Those that have persevered with it for more than a nanosecond – 135 million actively use it at present – will tell you that it embodies many appealing attributes that make social networking better, and that it enables them to pursue their interests with an ever-increasing community.
Google+ is also more sophisticated than its social media rivals, with features that the competition does not have – its killer feature being the Hangout function.
For the uninitiated, a Hangout is Google’s live video conference feature which allows you to broadcast to an unlimited number of people – think Skype on steroids – which are automatically recorded and uploaded to YouTube for later playback.
You are probably beginning to wonder where this is going by now. Well, there were a couple of examples last week of motorsport using the platform to great effect by interacting with fans, something which it can be accused of doing not nearly enough of at the moment.
First of all, McLaren hosted a live video conference which featured latest recruit Sergio Perez, who answered several – vetted – questions and disclosed his fondness for regularly changing his underpants, I kid you not.
Okay, so it wasn’t the most revealing of interviews, but that is kind of missing the point, because it offered fans the ability to speak directly to a contemporary Formula 1 driver which, as we all know, isn’t always the easiest of tasks.
The following day, Jimmie Johnson took time out of NASCAR Sprint Cup test at Daytona to talk to a group of enthusiastic followers and it genuinely made for an interesting 30 minutes of conversation, especially his ribbing of the main presenter.
What these examples show is that Google+ offers a brilliant opportunity for high-profiled individuals and teams to easily connect and engage with an audience.
Fans want to feel like they’re involved at all times, not just when cars are going round in circles on a Sunday afternoon. They want to feel involved and know what’s going on, and maybe voice their opinions and speak to main players too.
So, while it’s all well and good hanging information out there and using social media to signpost fans to new content, going one step further and reaching out to them – and breaking through the exclusivity barrier – will ultimately bring them much closer to the sport.
And this can only be a good thing because, lest we forget, it is the fans that make the sport, and they are the ones that bring value to it for all the sponsors who pay for the show.
I hope, therefore, that PR and marketing departments begin to realise the benefits of hosting a Hangout. As they gain traction with the sport’s figures and teams it will inevitably lead to bigger events and connect them and their followers in a way that has never been done before.