Lin Jarvis On Yamaha's New Social Media Policy: "The Target is to Guide, Not Restrict"

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, 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."

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"...Don't say anything controversial or opinionated that somebody, anybody might disagree with, and don't convey any information because that's the social media team's job, and they have every tweet they post signed off by 9 levels of Yamaha management before it hits the airwaves..."

Judging by how he gave absolutely no examples of guidelines, I suspect you're right. Sad, since they were all great on Twitter.

I think he's used lots of discretion over the years - He has always understood that the wrong tweet could cost him his job... at the same time it's interesting.

I did notice that he was far less active at the last test - I hope these aren't a signs of the times.

Most large corporations now have social media policies that govern posting about information that involves the work you do. When companies don't have such policies really silly things can occur. For example last year Lewis Hamilton twitted a picture of his teammates telemetry data which while awesome for the fans caused an uproar within the garage due to the possible affect it could have had on his teammates race. They soon after implemented a social media policy, but had they preemptively had one before the whole ruckus could have been avoided.

Could have it been the return of Vale's crew that forced Yamaha to clamp down? I noticed a big increase of detailed tweets from Alex Briggs since the move to Ducati. It's a shame, makes me feel closer to the teams and riders when I read info on Twitter.

Looks like they are battening down the hatches. A missed opportunity.

They should realise Alex et al are digital influencers who can amplify Yamaha's messages.

Instead of restricting their tweets, they should work with them. How about hiring a small video crew to film Alex's views, then get him to tweet the videos to his follows? They can upload it to Yamaha's official channels at the same time. If they did things like this, Lin could've gone out with a really positive message about ramping up their social media to reach more fans (e.g. potential customers).

Unfortunately it just comes across as yet another Japanese corporation tightly controlling the message. Another good example of that is Honda. Does anyone watch their anodyne Motogp content? I bother anymore - it's just too dull!

It's much easier to skip Twatter and Crapbook then to worry about what post or twat could be viewed the wrong way. Social media is worthless to me but I realize most others are very interested in giving away their privacy.

It's a shame they feel they cannot trust, for instance, Alex Briggs whom by their own admission was tweeting before the corporation even thought to and has managed to use his own judgement perfectly acceptably it seems. Given he and others understand that any impropriety could cost them their job it seems unnecessary to impose these alleged non-restrictions on staff.

The stupid actions, such as the example mentioned of Lewis Hamilton posting his team mates telemetry should not mean those who have better sense should be 'gagged'.

Doubly so stopping/restricting/'guiding' those whom are already doing so though I guess it may open a legal minefield to have employees with different rules regarding their permission to use social media?

This is a notice to Cal Crutchlow..Stop Tweeting your complants about not recieving Factory parts lol.
Cal has already Tweeted that he isnt paid by Yamaha but I'll bet his Tweets with criticism towards Yamaha on when he receives or will be receiving parts will be very moderate from now on,He talked his way out a factory contract with Ducati,Yamaha are not impressed and Honda are not interested.

The new policy reeks of attempts to control two of the most outspoken racers. Rossi is known to use the media to his advantage. Crutchlow's complaint about Dovi and the differences in brake tech last year shows that he is also learning and getting results from venting to the media.

I hate when corporation attempt to hide their short comings through silencing their critics.

Yamaha is just mitigating the legal risks of social media just like other large, responsible organizations do all the time. Perhaps it has nothing to do with Cal, Valentino, or Alex.