Written by: CatherineN on June 14, 2011 @ 8:50 pm
Football teams are big business, particularly in the Barclay’s Premiership. Players are paid vast salaries and millions of pounds change hands during the two transfer windows, managers are sacked for even a short run of poor form and owners come and go but these clubs would be nothing without their fans.
It can be argued that the fans are the most important part of any club; they buy tickets, replica kit and merchandise and are always loyal to their club. They create the atmosphere in the ground and spur their team on, often acting as ‘twelfth man’.
There are many ways a club can connect with its fans, and many reasons for doing so. Building a fan base is important to any club and many are now using social media to connect with their fans and enlarge their fan base.
The benefits to clubs of using social media are many. There is a large network of fans to be reached quickly and easily, the fans feel involved with the club as they can respond to Facebook or Twitter posts or ask questions and clubs can get feedback from fans. An article from Football Marketing advocates rapid adoption of social media, suggesting fans want to engage with their club, have their say and, in fact, expect it.
Because they are the team I support and because they are great users of social media I have looked at how Manchester City F.C. engage with their fans and try to build a larger fan base.
Looking at this league table for social media in Football from Rubber Republic we can see that Clubs have taken up social media options in varying degrees.
Since this was published in February 2010 things have changed and most teams now have a club presence on Facebook or Twitter, many both.
Football fans use social media to keep up to date with their club, to chat to fellow supporters and to discuss matches.
Twitter is also used by many fans to chat about all things football-related and also to contact the few Premiership footballers who use it. Some clubs seem to have a player gagging order to prevent their players criticising the club in public but there are some, notably Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) and Kevin Davies (@kevindaviesbwfc) who are prolific tweeters about their club, football in general and many other topics. They also reply to comments by other Twitter users, as I discovered when I commented on a Tweet of Rio Ferdinand’s which he retweeted with a question back to me and thus unleashed a torrent of abuse from Manchester United fans!
Many sites have an official presence on Facebook. This can be an important source of information for fans and feedback for the club. Running competitions also helps increase loyalty to the club. Fans are able to ‘like’ or comment on posts and will often get a response from the page author. The numbers of fans who engage in this way are quite amazing, for instance the Manchester City Facebook page currently has 709,462 members and the Manchester United page 15,857,556!
Club websites also play an important part in how the clubs connect with fans. A busy, not terribly user-friendly site, such as West Brom doesn’t appear to create a bond with the fans as well as an accessible, professional site such as Manchester City . Using the club website to encourage fans to interact with the club helps to encourage supporters to feel part of the club.
Manchester City have also used their website and a blog to involve fans in the development of an iPhone App. They also give fans an opportunity to share posts from the club website on Facebook, twitter or other sites.
They have also used the website, as well as traditional media, to create boards around the stadium concourse containing fans’ memories of their first City game.
Of course it is not only social media the big clubs use to consolidate and expand their fan base. Traditional media also play a part. City have created large banners containing the names of all season ticket holders which are displayed on the spiral walkways at the stadium.
They run a competition for fans to choose the playlist of songs for home matches. They have also displayed advertising hoardings around Manchester emphasising their rivalry with Manchester United.
Another aspect of fan engagement is through forums and blogs. There are many blogs and forums associated with any football club. Supporters who are passionate about their club want to have their say, they want to discuss tactics, team selection and results and they want to chat with like-minded fans about their club and others. Anyone can set up a blog about their club, for instance Blue Football which I created on Tumblr while researching this article, which contains photos, links and comments about Manchester City. The official website also contains links to fan sites and forums which fans can explore and contribute to. Some of these have large memberships and have their own banners at the stadium.
Football is a national passion and likely to remain so and the inter-relationship of football fans and their clubs cannot be under estimated. The majority of fans are intensely loyal to their club and once they become supporters they are there for life. The clubs need to keep the fans they have and attract new ones. Using social media, new technology and traditional media today’s football clubs have great opportunities to engage with their fans, build a larger fan base and keep growing as businesses.
Tags: social mediaCatogories: social media