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By Sean Walsh
Blogging about the rise of digital media in the football industry. This is a combination of two of my passions: football & social media.

I am the founder of digital-football.com, but can also be found writing for leading Sports Social Media blog - UKSportsNetwork and commentating on the #digisport and #SMSports hashtags.

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10 March 11

Stadiums need to be optimised for matchday social media

Football stadiums already provide the traditional media with press boxes and pitch side photographer dugouts. They are offered facilities to see the best of the action and get a story written within minutes of the game finishing. If I miss a game and I’m stuck some remote location without access to TV or radio, I can always log onto many of the different news websites, see the photos, read the match report and even hear the manager’s post-match interview. All through my smartphone. But like all things in this digital age, this can often take 20 or 30 minutes to actually get online and modern digital consumers simply don’t have that kind of patience.

The best place for the most up to date and quickest content? Online fan communities.

I always get my team news, goal updates and even videos of the goals (Captured from a fan’s seat!) on the likes of Twitter, Facebook or an unofficial messageboard. I value the digital content from these places more because I feel an affinity with and trust my fellow fans opinion (let’s face it, we want to hear ‘that it was never a penalty’ regardless whether it was the right decision!). So why do clubs not use this?

I can already hear football marketing and PR experts biting their nails with worries about fans showing up the club by tweeting profanities, but it would be wreckless and naive to just select any old fan and not have some kind of policy in place. So here is my plan:

Social media volunteers

Any community manager or marketing executive can find volunteers to help develop the clubs official social media. Treat them like employees, do a background check, ensure they understand the clubs social media policy and be a good judge of character. There are plenty of fans who love their club and have enough sense to know what they can, and cannot say, when they represent the team. Ideally, source these people to be the clubs brand ambassadors. There are literally hundreds of forum moderators, bloggers and social media commentators out there who would love the chance to get involved. The size of the team is obviously dependant on the size of your fanbase.

Social media mission control

As I said, the media have press boxes, so treat your team in the same manner. Create a location in the stadium from which your social media team (and your full time community manager) can work comfortably. NHL team, New Jersey Devils, recently pioneered this scheme by setting up a ‘command centre' where team members (Fans) could monitor traffic and metrics, what's been said on social media channels, answer questions, create content and watch the game - all at once. I think it's a great piece of innovation so check it out.

Matchday content

Get creative with content and tailor match videos, images and web copy to specific matches. Use Twitter to both crowd source potential ideas as well as listening to the pre-game opinions of the fans. Let your team do viral, quick and impromptu video interviews (that can be uploaded without editing) with fans and staff. Let them relay the atmosphere to those who can’t be in the stadium. Heck, even crowd source the DJ!

Sort out your connection

It’s all very well having social media campaigns on match day, but having travelled and visited numerous stadiums around the UK, I’m always faced with the same problem. No WiFi. No 3G. Fans like to do things as they wait for kick-off, they like to upload a photo from their seat to Facebook, they like to use geo-check in to let their friends know they are at the game. Similarly, many like to report goals and incidents from the stadium to media and message boards worldwide. But they can’t do any of that if the stadium’s WiFi or 3G is severely over-burdened to the point it no longer works. I can understand that it may be costly to improve such services but you have to balance that cost with the potential of global, real-time marketing and viral presence.

If stadiums can get their act together and utilise the thousands of social media users at their disposal, they could massively increase their presence, engage their fans and improve the matchday experience at a relatively low cost. 

Stadium social media optimisation.

  1. walshybhoy posted this
Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh