With the increasing popularity of social media amongst sports fans and the growing acceptance of its importance at executive level, here are some of the ways clubs are using social media to bridge the gap with fans.
Q&As with players
These have the potential to go very wrong, especially if the player is controversial, but if the player is generally well liked and respected, it’s a nice way for the players to respond to fans. Of course, questions and answers are handpicked from the thousands that come in, and marketing staff may be there to assist. The sentiment is still positive though and it’s a global opportunity that wasn’t always there in the past.
Promoting user generated content
One way of showing a fan base that the club is about the supporters, and not just the marketing department, is to share posts from the fans themselves. The mechanic used is often a competition in which fans are incentivised to share user generated content. Sometimes the prize may be tangible, other times the prize is the club sharing the photograph from their official accounts. The glory!
Fan cam guest appearances
YouTube channels owned and run by fans are becoming increasingly popular. They’re a great place for supporters to share opinions about what they love most – football! In the UK, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have particularly strong communities, with some everyday supporters becoming mini-celebrities in their own right. The way in which players can use these channels to connect with fans is to make special guest appearances. The majority of videos will still feature fans, but the occasional club appearance is a way of showing respect and appreciation of the efforts that have been made.
Moving away from the official nature of many announcements and updates, a light-hearted way to connect with fans is to run a quiz. These often work well on Twitter and Facebook. Questions can be based on events from recent years or even decades ago, therefore engaging different generations and audience segments. The quick time frame between the start and finish gives the activity more of a live, social feel.
Responding to fans
It sounds so obvious doesn’t it? Some clubs still do not take part in conversations on social media. They may believe the risks outweigh the benefits, or that there aren’t enough benefits to justify the time investment. Also, it can come down to fear, resulting in a planned social communications strategy aligned to other push channels. For some clubs though, engaging with fans is a great way to connect to their fan base, to become involved in conversations and to show that they’re listening. The times that I like this most is when a club is being pro-active – so rather than just responding to questions, they find a comment from a supporter and tweet back/respond on Facebook completely out of the blue.
Social media has not completely bridged the gap between supporters and clubs/players, but when used in some of the ways above, steps are definitely being taken in the right direction. With many football fans in the office, we’re looking forward to seeing even more approaches over the coming weeks and months.