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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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27 October 11

FC Barcelona see the real value in Social Media [INTERVIEW]

 

This month Digital-Football.com is very fortunate to have a chat about football social media with the UEFA Champions League winners and arguably, one of the greatest sporting institutions to grace the planet, FC Barcelona. The social media team at the Catalan club have been incredibly busy in recent months and sit at the forefront of sports social media and fan engagement. Barca currently have the most liked Facebook page in global sports, and rank in the top 50 of all Facebook pages. But it isn’t just their Facebook page that has won them our plaudits – they were the first to fulfill our prediction that clubs willoptimise their stadium for social media, and they run massively engaging Twitter and YouTube accounts to support their Facebook activity.

Digital-Football asked them about certain areas of their social media strategy, here’s what they revealed:


Social Media Policy for staff and players

For the longest time, Policy and Guidelines have been an issue we’ve been trying to push on this site and we’ve been desperate to learn how clubs are educating their employees about the potential pitfalls of social. For Barcelona, their Social Media Policy places an emphasis on responsibility, however, what is clear is that this doesn’t naturally mean restrictions.

“We don’t like to restrict the use of Social Media. We just try to give all the information, tools and support to all FC Barcelona employees, football players included, in order to be aware of.”

In a refreshing move, Barcelona revealed to us that they have an education strategy in place that ensures that ‘everybody understands the magnitude of every tweet or post we do’. This approach teaches staff to think about what they post, as well as actually understand the consequences of bad practice as supposed to merely being told ‘it’s bad’. Education is the way forward, not blanket bans.

Return on investment and FC Barcelona

Being the best is something integral to the Barcelona ethos, whether this is on the field, in the business or in the social world. Barcelona’s brand oozes quality and class – a follower of their football will know that they don’t do ‘ugly victories’. So, it’s no surprise that this concept is evident in their Social Media strategy. Facebook is a huge part of the clubs social success, for reasons already stated, but Barcelona recognise that it isn’t just about numbers – return on investment isn’t necessary sales:

“It’s not just a question of numbers. FC Barcelona uses Social Media as a service channel. Twitter, Facebook and Youtube are the best way to connect to a lot of people around the world. We are proud of our values and our identity and this is a good way of spreading them. So, the return of investment is not only in economic terms.”

What is clear for Barcelona is that Social Media is a service, and it should be servicing the fans above all else. Whilst many brands and football clubs visualise Social Media as a marketing channel, to Barca, it is so much more – it’s a connection to build relationships on an international scale.

Investing in long term Social Media


The social team sit naturally within the Marketing and Communications department of the club, but the primary objective for the team is  ‘to keep the best relationship with all Barça Fans’. What makes FC Barcelona rather different to most sporting brands is that the sheer size of their organisation requires separated channels for the vast amount of teams and sports that fall under the brand,

“We’ve got one Facebook page for the first team, one for the B team and La Masia, and one for every professional section: basketball, futsal, handball and hockey. And on Twitter, we follow the same standard with a plus. We run 3 official accounts (@fcbarcelona, @fcbarcelona_es and @fcbarcelona_cat), one for every language (English, Spanish and Catalan)”

Barca are proud of what they describe as ‘a singularity’, and it is interesting to see how they manage their social media for different markets – Twitter in particular. The club has been considerate to its massive international fan base by deploying an English channel, whilst at the same time, the club has stayed true to its roots and tweets in Catalan. Whilst this is an arduous task for the brand, it goes to show that they have a strategy that is looking at the bigger picture.

Looking towards the future – Mobile

As already mentioned, Barcelona are credited to being the first team in Europe to look to optimise their stadium for matchday social media. For the club this isn’t just about raising awareness of social channels, but rather it’s ensuring that fans have the best chances of utilising social within the stadium – this means mobile technology.

“Mobile phones are the future of connectivity. The challenge is to convert Camp Nou in a “mobile friendly” zone.”

With smartphone adoption rapidly increasing, it makes sense that clubs begin to look at the role of mobile in the game, whether that is mobile marketing, geolocation, mobile sharing and even mobile tickets. We are both in agreement that if you want to have a social presence that maximizes huge attendances, then you have to ensure that your environment is conducive for data sharing. There’s little point spending thousands on a Social Media campaign if you can’t even effective market to your own fans in your own house!

Authors note: I would like to thank the Social team at Barca for being willing to answer my questions and be happy to be as open and upfront as possible. It can be a real struggle to get quotes, let alone answers to every question you like, and I appreciate their kind support for the blog and hopefully I can get a chance to write more about the excellent displays of innovation currently going on at the Camp Nou.

2 October 11

Finally a Football Manager who doesn’t blame Social Media

In recent months we’ve seen all kinds of nonsense spouted from those in the higher echelons of professional football. We’ve seen managers disgruntled by Twitter as players reveal their tactics ahead of a game, show their anger at the clubs transfer policy and some just making ridiculously stupid comments. This has instigated managers to lambast social networks and in some cases, managers have gone as far as banning their players.

I’ve spoken about this lack of understanding before, and I remain firm that managers can’t just blame social networks or players – they (and their clubs) must take responsibility for failing to educate their players or provide a social media policy.

So, today when I read a BBC article about Celtic player, Kris Commons, and how he had tweeted about being unhappy about being left out of Sundays Glasgow Derby, I expected the usual.

Thankfully, not.

Celtic’s manager, Neil Lennon, was asked whether he was fazed by the comments – no doubt a cackle of journalists sniffing for the usual “social media is bad” story. Remarkably, Lennon stated,

 ”He said he was fit, but he didn’t train on Saturday and said he had tight groins … I’d have preferred it to be kept in-house, but this is the modern way of it – social networking seems to be the way forward.”

It would’ve been easy for Lennon to blame social media, and it would be even easier for him to ban his players outright, but then this isn’t Neil Lennon’s style.

In fact, as far as I can tell, Neil Lennon is currently just one of two managers in UK top-tier leagues that have active Twitter accounts (his account being @officialneil and the other being Liverpool manager & ex-Celt @kennethdalglish). Even throughout Europe, it’s incredibly rare to finding a professional manager with a Twitter account. Lennon regularly hosts impromptu Q&A sessions and is always completely engaging with fans, very rarely does he broadcast for some kind of commercial gain.

It is refreshing to see somebody high up in the game see the value in social media and willing to embrace it, even when it perhaps causing some problems. I predicted a few months ago that we may start to see more managers utilise Twitter, particularly as a way of bypassing the traditional press. Hopefully, Lennon and Dalglish will not be the only managers to see sense and not try fight the power of social media.

14 September 11

Should brands be allowed to use copyright laws to boost their own Facebook page?

 

How many times have we seen it? A brand (or in this case a sports club) announces a new Facebook page but within just a few hours they already have accumulated a spectacular number of Likes. Point in case, when Leo Messi launched his Facebook page in April, I incorrectly reported that he had obtained 6.6 million new Facebook fans in less than 3 hours. After a bit of research, #digisport contributor Kristian Gotsche pointed out that Messi (well, his PR people) had forced ownership of a number of unofficial fan pages to their control with copyright infringement threats. The story received global coverage and it appeared that Leo Messi had somewhat activated his following in just a short amount of time.

Equally, this month, Glasgow Rangers announced that they were adopting social media through an official Facebook page and Twitter account. I commend the club for embracing social media and it’s good to see yet another football club getting involved with utilising social media to communicate directly with their fans.

However, what caught my eye was the sheer rate of growth Rangers had seen in just a few days. Having closely followed their rivals, Celtic F.C.’s Facebook page over the past few months - I was surprised to see that Rangers had managed to surpass Celtic. Celtic have about 120,000 Facebook Likes after roughly 6 or 7 months of promotion and engagement. Rangers on the other hand, managed 200,000 in less than a week.

As it turns out, it appears that Rangers forced control of these unofficial pages by claiming copyright violations against their own fans in order to boost their own official Facebook page Likes.

Facebook Like growth for Rangers FC Official

Social Media is about nurturing and building relationships, not the number of Likes. Instead, brands should be looking to utilise these ‘unofficial community managers’ who operate unofficial fan pages in other ways - perhaps allowing them to continue in some capacity? At the very least, they should be rewarded for their efforts and be made to feel that the brand appreciates everything they have done. Here’s just a few ideas Rangers could’ve done instead:

  • - Keep unofficial Facebook  page admins - a risky strategy, but it would be nice to see the club give them some training
  • - Offer unofficial community managers a chance to guest blog on the website
  • - Thank unofficial page admins with some kind of PR event - give them free tickets, invite them to blog about maintaining the Facebook following and the hand over
  • - Brand advocacy - keep unofficial page admins on as fan liaisons or social media ambassadors
  • - Don’t take over their page to start of with - instead work with these unofficial pages to build awareness for the official page. Create a network of connected fan pages.
  • - At least say thank you publicly.

I don’t think there’s anything too wrong with brands be able to make a claim on pages - if anything it makes sense in order to moderate fans online. Especially for Rangers, who have had recent problems regarding death threats and sectarian comments on web communities.

However, I feel that threatening those who took the time to set up and often community manage these pages is just plain wrong. This does nothing to recognise the efforts of the administrator (the fan who set the page up), who essentially have being doing a job that the brand should really be paying for. Using the threat of legal action and copyright is a complete cop-out and smacks of the club not caring about their fans in the slightest, and only interested in ‘having a larger Facebook follower’ (Which any sensible person in social will tell you, isn’t everything).

Glasgow Rangers were asked to comment but have so far not replied.
11 August 11

Football players are not only to blame, Clubs must share Twitter responsibility

 

It certainly has been an interesting week for followers of Sports Social Media, as Premier League midfielder Joey Barton was released from his club (Newcastle United) after having a very public bust-up with the club via Twitter. As a consequence, every media outlet and journalist has been talking about the ever-growing popularity of social media amongst professional footballers. On one hand, this has been excellent for us that have long been trying to promote the profile of social media within the game. However, on the other hand, it’s a shame to see that yet again the press has instead focused on highlighting negative stories rather than the good (Which admittedly are still too few and infrequent in the UK).

One positive element to take out of the whole Joey Barton debacle was a comment from David Sheepshanks, former Football Association board member and current head of the National Football Centre . Sheepshanks said in a Daily Mirror article,

“My view is football has got to adjust to social media and not just here at St. George’s Park [Where the National Football Centre is based], which is all about learning, but also at club level.”

“I hope the programmes will be instituted at club level which will better equip young players to deal with the sort of things that happen.”

Bravo Mr. Sheepshanks.

Far too many seem intent on pointing the blame just at the players. In my opinion, the clubs share an equal responsibility for what their players tweet. The sooner clubs realise that a Tweet is just as influential (and potentially damaging) as a quote to a journalist, the sooner they can start trying to figure out how to educate their players and help them understand, and be careful, on social channels.

Banning social media amongst players, as a few clubs have done so already,  is a short term quick fix that will most definitely never stick. The ever-changing nature of the game means that players constantly transfer between clubs whether on permanent deals or loans. How can clubs expect players to immediately disconnect with their faithful fans all of a sudden? As long as clubs continue to ban, players will never understand what they are doing wrong, nor will they see the potential value that good social media offers.

Clubs must take responsibility for their players by setting aside time to bring in some experts (Wolves recently brought in a media law firm) and educate the players. Inform them of the value of social media, how to use it, how to talk to their fans, what is best practice and what is not. Use existing case studies to demonstrate what isn’t acceptable. Offer players a social media advisor, so they can ask questions or check whether the tweet they want to send out is ok. Provide them, please dear god, with a social media policy – so at the very least they have something on paper at hand (as well as acting as legal document that the player has agreed to adhere to the clubs internal policy). Even give the manager some training and guidance!

These are not difficult initiatives, nor are they expensive. It is unbelievable how most clubs haven’t even got the basics yet. Clubs need to adjust to social media and they need to get on board now, otherwise players will continue to act up.

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9 June 11

How not to use social media for sports - Rio & Ollie Holt

Rio Ferdinand, English footballer. Plays in th...

Twitterland was embroiled in debate this week as users criticised Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand for sending abusive direct messages to journalist Ollie Holt, whilst the other half criticised the said journo for publishing the content of the messages

Put simply, both were horribly wrong and presented themselves in a completely unprofessional manner. It was like watching an older brother tease his younger sibling in order to illicit an reaction, getting it and then running to mummy to “dob him in”.

Ferdinand, usually a brilliant ambassador for athletes using social media, was way out of line for sending such abusive messages to Holt. Regardless of the provocation, he should know that at all times he represents the club. Yes, its hard to be always weary of what you say, but his wages should compensate for that. In my opinion, Holt could’ve got a far bigger story for reporting Rio to Twitter for sending the abuse (which would’ve been far more interesting to see how Twitter dealt with the situation). That being said, there has to be some give and take. Sports stars such as Rio have given fans an amazing insight into their private lives through social media, so we should cut them some slack when they mess up, they are human after all.

As for Ollie Holt, I find his role in this a lot more sinister. Undoubtedly he provoked Rio and went into the situation with an intention to illicit an emotive response. The evident glee in his tweets after his story broke was both pathetic and childish, similar to a child smiling at another being told off. If that wasn’t sinister enough, he broke a strict piece of online etiquette - you don’t post private messages (such as Twitter’s Direct Messages). Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter or a Forum, it is a complete no-no to post the contents of private messaging. By all means, report abuse, but revealing the exact content is wrong, particularly when you’re motive is to just do it for attention. It doesn’t excuse Rio from what he said, but it just shows up Mr Holt for being totally disingenuous and he comes across as the traditional “internet troll" in his quest for "a story".

Social Media is about relationship building, the best advice anyone can give is to treat people in the social space as you would face to face. Nobody wants to see leading authorities of their industry fighting and being reduced to verbal fisty-cuffs. Nor should journalists exploit social media as a “force for evil” just to get some cheap attention (Ok, maybe a little over the top!). Trolling is bad, no matter how influential or reputable the troll is.

Ultimately, this entire conflict reeks of unprofessional behaviour on both sides but at least it provides a fine example of how both journalists and athletes shouldn’t use social media.

5 April 11

How will social media and sports TV work? Here’s a few ideas…

I recently came across a video by Sports Business blogger, Russell Scibetti at the Global Sports Forum in Barcelona. Russell gave an example of how very soon we can expect to see social media (more specifically online audience participation) working alongside sports broadcasting. It’s something that I predict will become immensely huge within the next 2 years. Sports fans love statistics, and they love opinions, that’s why so many read blogs or the papers. However, there’s an increasing trend to micro-blog during live sports events via Facebook and Twitter. This goldmine of fan created content is waiting to be tapped into and there is massive potential for how broadcasters can be creative in delivering the very latest “buzz” across social media. Here are a few ideas:

Hashtag co-ordination

A simple enough concept but this will be the first step for sports broadcasters to motivate their audience to create conversations in-play. It only takes a prompt somewhere on the screen, or a presenter to explain that fans can follow what’s being said by contributing to a game specific hashtag. Whilst this is easy to do on Twitter, on Facebook it is a little more complex. Sports broadcasters could integrate their own Facebook page into their official website and use the social plugins available so the audience could leave their opinions in the commentary box. With all this data in one easy to find hashtag, broadcasters could then select appropriate comments and show them on screen.

Sky Sports Fanzone used to show fans SMS messages, so why not bring this back but enhance it with social media?

Retweet/Like competition for match decisions

This idea involves simplifying how broadcasters can compile opinion, and also exploit the competitive nature of sport rivalry. Rather than ask for comments, broadcasters could simply offer A or B answers to a questions via individual tweets, and then urge their followers to retweet/Like whichever answer they think is best. This could be used for matters such as:

  • Which team will win tonight? [Followed by two separate tweets such as ‘Man Utd will win, RT me if you agree’]
  • What the 87th minute goal offside or onside?
  • Who would you start upfront today against the opposition?

TV broadcasters could then calculate the number of RT’s/Likes very quickly and bring this up as a in-game stat. So whenever there is a contentious decision, TV could show immediately what their Facebook or Twitter users thought within a few minutes.

Fancast video blogging

Ok, so maybe this would be a bit unrealistic and difficult to moderate, but I’d love to see fans urged to make quick video commentaries about the sporting event. With the rise of smartphone users, this could be done quickly and easily. Fans already give their opinion on phone-ins, and sometimes we get brief interviews with fans pre-match, but I want to see more. Watching fans (even if the camera quality is a bit rubbish) talking passionately is both engaging and humorous. Most of the time, I find myself agreeing with my fans rather than the pundits. We already see it on YouTube, so why not bring it TV? Perhaps fans could even upload their video with a hashtag and then fellow supporters vote on their favourite video to be shown on air?

What idea do you have for using social media on sports TV? Leave a comment about what you want to see.

17 March 11

Interview: Ryan Knapp (Manager of Digital, NSCAA)

This week I have been very lucky to get a chance to chat with the NSCAA Manager of Digital, Ryan Knapp over in the US. The NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) is the largest football coach organisation in the world, with over 30,000 members. The role of the organisation is to provide guidance, support and training for coaching at all levels within the sport, as well as provide a national recognition system for college and high school teams, players and coaches across the US.           

How has social media changed the way the NSCAA and it’s members communicate with each another internally?

RK: “The focus of the NSCAA is on coaching education. With that being said, we use social media as a tool for coaches to communicate with each other. There is a huge amount of information to be shared between coaches from all over the United States and we hope that social media can help facilitate those conversations between coaches.

Coaches want to talk x’s and o’s, practice plans, skills and drills and give match recaps and analysis. We have not yet gone into training coaches specifically on the uses of social media, but it is a topic that I definitely am interested in exploring further (personally speaking!).

The one-on-one interaction that is key in social media has been at the core of the NSCAA mission since we were founded in 1941. We embrace peer-to-peer learning and collaboration in our coaching education and development so for us, we’ve been able to extend those ideals easily into the realm of social media.”

How is the NSCAA using social media to aid football coaching US?

RK: “We use social media to find those coaches who need our help the most. By using simple twitter searches and different alerts, I come across people who are having trouble teaching their players to score, for instance. I will send a message about what they need help with and I work to get them the answers they are looking for.”

Are there plans to provide a structured academic course on social media use for coaches?

RK: We do not currently have a focused NSCAA social media course for coaches. My good friend Amanda Vandervort and I presented a talk “Social Media for Soccer Coaches" at the last NSCAA Convention in Baltimore and received great feedback. Possibly in the future we can incorporate different types of social media education into the courses.  

What has been the largest challenge for managers adopting social media? (What’s the most common problem/question?)

RK: Many coaches, especially in the collegiate level, are worried about the time and effort it takes to keep up.  You have to explain to a coach who is already working 60+ hours a week why they should spend another five to update social media channels and grow a presence. Luckily, the most successful campaigns work alongside the Sports Information Department and Sports Information Directors (SID's) to ensure the communications coming from the coaches reach the most eyeballs.

Along the same vein, many question “Why would someone want to know what I’m thinking?" or the common "Who wants to know what I had for dinner?" Those conversations usually take a little bit longer.

How has social media affected player recruitment?

RK: Social media is changing rapidly, and the NSCAA is attempting to keep up on this topic. Amanda wrote a great piece on this for the NSCAA blog a few months back. It makes player recruiting a bit tricky in that coaches and schools need to understand how they are contacting certain athletes and on what sites they engage athletes. The NCAA has released some guidelines on social media and recruiting but expect those guidelines to change yearly as social media technologies continue to evolve and change.

 

At the minute it seems to be mainly players who have got on the social media bandwagon, but it makes sense that managers (particularly those at grass roots level) start to use social media as both a co-ordination and press tool. Platforms like Facebook events or Twitter hashtags could in theory be used by managers to broadcast to their players and other coaches to organise training, matches or promote the game at a lower level. Equally, at a higher level it’s already been speculated that social media could replace traditional post match press conference (I’m sure Fergie would prefer that!). Players already are, so why not managers?

With regards to social media recruitment, watch this space as I’ll be covering this very soon.

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.

4 March 11

NBA team sells off tweets & Facebook status updates

Ok, so this isn’t football based or even UK based, but I think this could be a dangerous precedent. I tend to believe that US sports franchises like the NBA and NFL, do a brilliant job of engaging their fans and utilising social media effectively. As such, UK sports tend to lag behind a little, so I like to look at what’s going on across the pond for the very latest innovation.

Phoenix Suns

Forbes put up an excellent article regarding the NBA’s hugely successful use of social media. If you don’t follow the NBA, check them out. I could write all day about how awesome the NBA social media strategy is, but if you are interested in it then check out this case study for a quick overview.

However, half way through the Forbes article I noticed this,

The Phoenix Suns have sold Social Media Suite packages to local companies trying to expand the visibility of their businesses. A $7000 investment gets 20 tickets to a suite, six parking passes, food and beverages, and the opportunity to become a Suns digital marketing partner. The digital marketing includes the right to make two Facebook status updates to the Suns’ 229,000+ fans and three Twitter mentions on the @PhoenixSuns feed to their more than 45,000 followers.”

This immediately worries me. As a sports fan (and NBA fan), I highly value their social media. Sure, like any commercial outfit they have ulterior motives to sell merchadise and ticket sales, but I don’t mind that as long as there’s a healthy balance.  The whole corporate hospitality side of things is business as usual and I’ve no problem with, but other businesses paying to tweet? No thanks.

Yes, it might only be restricted to local businesses, and perhaps there’s a policy in which the businesses have to follow (ideally - no selling!), but there’s just something uncomfortable and not-genuine about paying to have access to an social media audience. Phoenix Suns fans follow their accounts because they have an affinity with the club, not Bobs Carwash. If the Suns didn’t charge and did this to support local small business then I’d be really pleased, nice to see a sports team supporting local business. Anyway, I’d like to think that a local business could use £7,000 more creatively to get the best out of social media.

In a footballing sense, I get the impression that a few big clubs out there would like this as an alternative revenue stream. I hope they don’t follow suit, particularly as many already spam feeds with their own sales never mind somebody else.

PS. The same Forbes article mentions this excellent bit of fan engagement from the Detroit Pistons.

1 March 11

Rangers ban players from Twitter after a month of PR embarrassment

The Daily Record revealed this morning that Rangers manager, Walter Smith, has put an end to several of his players tweeting. The decision to ban Twitter most likely comes from a PR review after both professional players, Kyle Lafferty and Lisa Swanson caused controversy with tweets.

Lafferty, born in the North of Ireland, famously gloated about Rangers’ early season victory over their close rivals, Celtic. However, the affair seriously backfired when Rangers went on to lose at Ibrox on January the 2nd. Lafferty has been notably missing on Twitter since (@lafferty27).

Swanson however, is a little more sinister. The female Rangers player tweeted vile slurs against former Celtic and Scotland manager Jock Stein on February 6th and then quickly removed her account. Despite criticism online, Rangers had no comment on the issue.

Perhaps, these two events have been crucial in a PR cleanup at a club mired in several embarrassing PR disasters from players and fans alike. Indeed, it was only this week that travelling Rangers fans were videoed singing and glorifying the tragic death of Celtic coach Tommy Burns, who died of skin cancer, aged 51. The video, reported by Portuguese TV ahead of their Europa league tie against Sporting Lisbon, has since been removed.

Is the Rangers PR policy to simply cease all communication and pretend it never happened? 

11 February 11

Football clubs still not exploiting social media

Russell Parsons writing in this Marketing Week article made the point that many football clubs are still failing to do direct marketing properly. Parsons wrote that despite having a huge fanatical audience, many clubs still have a marketing campaign that doesn’t go any further than,

here’s a shirt, here’s a price, and here’s how you buy it”.

As an avid fan of football and social media, it really perplexes me that a multi-million pound commercial sector still hasn’t grasped how to market to online football fans. Sure, clubs are slowly adopted channels like Facebook and Twitter, but have a look at some of their newsfeeds and it’s just URL after URL back to their website. These clubs are missing the point of social media and as such, missing an opportunity for serious fan engagement.

Manchester Unite Facebook page

For example take a look at Manchester United. They are a global brand with an estimated 75 million fans worldwide, a rich history of success and the 3rd richest club in football (£350m revenue in 2010). On Facebook, they boast a remarkable 9 million followers, and it’s actually a pretty good Facebook page, but are they really engaging their fans? On Twitter, it’s lunacy how poor a job they do. Trying to find the official account is a mission, especially since they make no mention of it on their official website. When you do get onto @mufootballclub (180k followers), you might as well be looking at the websites RSS feed as it’s an endless broadcast stream of spam.

Ultimately social media is about engagement. Sure, clubs can replicate their website content on social media platforms and get away with it but if they really want to be the best, then they have to start involving their fanatical fans. In regards to Manchester United, they need only look across the city. Utilise your fanbase, promote fan created content and constantly listen (not just talk) to the audience. Football clubs are doing the bare minimum at the minute.

6 February 11
" “lol its just banter" [in response to criticism for a Jock Stein slur].

Lisa Swanson (Professional female footballer)

SwansonRangers women’s team player in reference to a disgusting tweet/slur about past Celtic & Scotland manager Jock Stein. The player has since apologised after fan backlash, but the issue is yet to be highlighted by Rangers and the media.

In the past few months, several professional sports players have been reprimanded by their Twitter comments. This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable from somebody in a professional capacity.

Response from the club will be interesting from a PR perspective. More to follow.


UPDATE: 6/2/11 21:58
- Swanson’s Twitter account @swanny_10 is removed, possibly due to the clubs recommendations ahead of potential newspaper reports tomorrow. Arguably, this is a bad move. Previous attempts of deleting and sweeping away controversial evidence on Twitter, has only ever led to further negative PR & interest.

(Source: scotzine.com)

Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh