There was much consternation ahead of the Jerez MotoGP test, when it emerged that the Factory Yamaha MotoGP team had imposed a new social media policy. Given that Yamaha has perhaps the strongest presence on social media of all MotoGP teams, fans feared that the access they had been given would be restricted. Apart from riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha also has Alex Briggs, mechanic to Valentino Rossi, Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Jorge Lorenzo, and Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager to Jorge Lorenzo on their payroll, all three popular figures on Twitter.
At the official launch of Yamaha's 2013 MotoGP campaign, MotoMatters.com spoke to Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis to ask about the policy, and try to clear up any confusion surrounding the situation. Our first question was naturally, did Yamaha indeed have a new social media policy? "We have introduced a new policy globally, not only Yamaha MotoGP, but Yamaha Motor as a global operation has introduced a social media guideline," Jarvis said. "So we have introduced our own one for the MotoGP world as well, which is in line with the global policy." The goal of the policy was not to limit the interaction between Yamaha staff and their followers on Social Media, Jarvis explained. "The target of the new policy is not to per se restrict the amount of information that's available, but it is to have an agreed framework reference: what should you be doing, what should we be doing. Because this is important as well. I know Alex [Briggs] was indeed one of the very first people who was out there tweeting and giving people information and tips and such, behind the scenes. And I think that's all valuable stuff. At that time, probably he started five years ago, four years ago at least... [Briggs joined Twitter in October 2009], Yamaha MotoGP didn't have a Twitter account back then. We do now."
Twitter itself is just under seven years old, and is a sign of just how quickly the world of communications can change. Jarvis explained that Yamaha were doing their best to adapt to this fast-changing world. "Start, begin, change and evolve, and I think that's what we're in now, we're in an evolution," Jarvis said. "We now have our own social media officers, we have many people working in our media department, and now their job, their mission is to generate content, to provide as much behind-the-scenes information as possible to the users. So you know, the policy is not to restrict and block, the policy is to guide. Every corporation needs to guide what's going on amongst the people that are working for it. This is a very important point, because, I mean, honestly, it's not only to the people involved in MotoGP, it's for the people involved in all Yamaha businesses, all operations. Because there are some things that are free and open, but there are other things as an employee, you know, you need to be more sensitive about, in some of the things you might be discussing."
One part of the problem is that those working in MotoGP do so because they are passionate about the sport, and being passionate about it, they also have strong opinions about it. Ramon Forcada is known for his passionate views on racing, and his willingness and ability to explain the intricacies of racing in various formats. But this can cause a conflict, because the line between the private individual Ramon Forcada and the Yamaha MotoGP crew chief Ramon Forcada is a difficult one to draw. "That's the difficulty and the delicacy," Jarvis acknowledged, explaining that seeing the problems that other companies had encountered on Twitter had made Yamaha's corporate HQ consider carefully how best to handle social media. "Talking not so much about the MotoGP world, but if you look at many other environments where an inadvertently misplaced tweet has led to a major corporation having difficulties at a certain time," Jarvis said. "Yamaha Motor as a global company has to address that and issue guidelines. So they're not restrictions per se, it's guidelines as to how to deal with it. I hope that we can manage it well and still provide the content that's interesting for the real fans, yet at the same time keep it within the reasonable guidelines."