Can social media help bring fans back to your official site?

I recently put out a question on Twitter, blogs and fansites: Sports fans, where do you go for information about your favourite teams/athletes, official sites or other sources?

The resounding answers were that sports fans get information from other sources, such as, fansites, local media and RSS feeds. I’m the same, as an Ipswich Town fan if I want to know something about the club about 99 times out of 100 I don’t go to the official website.

Is this a problem?

In some ways, no, many brands would do anything for the coverage that sports clubs receive. Sports clubs and brands have some of the most dedicated and loyal fans in the world, the fact that they blog about and discuss the club across the internet and various social media platforms is a huge bonus.

However, as a sports club you want YOUR fans on YOUR site, that’s where you sell your tickets, merchandise and where your sponsors get exposure. Just posting news stories on your site isn’t enough now, the fans can get these stories from other sources. In order to keep fans coming back you need to have engaging content and give them something different, something they can’t get anywhere else, and I think social media can play a huge part in bringing fans back to the clubs official site.

Clubs should take advantage of what they have at their disposal, whilst they have to report with a favourable spin and can’t report from different angles like the press they have a huge advantage with behind the scenes access to the team and the club. Fans want to feel close to the club and the players, via utilising social media and using what they have at their disposal clubs can easily offer some great content that will bring fans to their sites.

So, how can social media help?

Official club Twitter and Facebook pages make sharing club news much easier and would send larger amounts of people to official sites. If news about Ipswich Town FC comes up in my Twitter and Facebook feeds I’ll view it, whether it’s from the official club site or not, by not having a presence on these sites many clubs are missing out.

One thing that clubs need to remember is: The most important aspect of social media is interaction. Tools such as facebook and Twitter should be used as a way to communicate with fans, let the fans know what’s going on, and also listen to what they have to say. This is one thing many clubs forget!

A club blog, similar to the Washington Wizards Blog is a great way to engage fans and bring them back to the official site. A blog is essentially a communication tool between your club and the outside world. Blogs are a place to share thoughts and also share what’s going on at the club. Traditionally readers are free to comment on blog posts, making a blog a two way conversation between the club and the readers. This helps build relationships with fans and will also give fans some great insights into the goings on behind the scenes.

It would be great to see more clubs, especially UK clubs, utilising social media and of course posting interesting and engaging content. Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts and carry on the conversation.

Do you think it matters to clubs if fans aren’t visiting their official site? What would you like to see clubs doing to attract fans back to their sites? What clubs have to best sites for fan engagement and interaction?

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  • http://joshhalliday.net/ Josh Halliday

    As an interesting takeaway, look at Sunderland AFC (safc.com and @SAFCOfficial) who have recently opened conversation with their Twitter followers, even following some back.

    Disclosure: I worked in the club's Digital Media dept. in summer 2009, launching their new official website and all the bells and whistles that go with it.

    Football clubs get *alot* of stick from their fans, I think opening up a new channel of communication is one big reason why many remain as robots online.

    Also consider that many official club websites are likely to get things like 'social media policies' as huge formal bulking documents from their CMS-provider. These are invariably written (and read) by people who don't engage in social media themselves.

    I put forth some ideas on how sports clubs could utilise and further engage the community on their doorstep: http://joshhalliday.net/?p=144

    [Note my website is almost identical to yours!]

    SAFC now live-Tweet their matches and host Twitter-only competitions.

    Good post,

    @JoshHalliday

  • AshRead

    Josh,

    It's great to see Sunderland starting to use Twitter and of course opening up conversation with their fans. It would be great to see Sunderland using Darrent Bent's presence on Twitter to their advantage too, maybe with some promotional giveaways or something along those lines. Considering Bent now has nearly 30,000 followers he could certainly extend the reach of the @SAFCOfficial account. Of course no-one would want Bent's account to become a marketing channel for Sunderland, but the odd Tweet and giveaway would be nice.

    I hadn't seen the Sunderland website since the re-design, they've done a great job. It's good to see the club advertising their Twitter on the homepage too!

    Thanks again for the comment.
    Ash.

  • CherryHintonBlue

    Football clubs outside the very top flight have some of the most conservative PR/promotional/marketing departments of any business with a similar number of regular customers. This is a result of the unique situation they've always been in of not having to chase publicity, but in ensuring that the guaranteed coverage they get every day in the press is to their liking. Few organisations are so local and national press-oriented in their PR as football clubs.

    When the internet burst onto the scene, even the dustiest old industrial company realised it had to get involved. But football clubs, with their daily press calls, never had the time to get their act together on this front. Then – deep joy – a company came along and offered to manage their websites, and even pay for the privilege of doing so. They couldn't wait to sign up, and years later, most of the professional clubs in this country have identical – and pretty mediocre – websites. More importantly, any other form of internet activity could be conveniently ignored.

    I'm really pleased that Sunderland have a digital media department, and I was delighted when Portsmouth (to give one example) showed it was possible for a club to extricate itself from the long-term website management agreement so many other clubs are stuck with. However, the sad truth is that at most clubs, there's nobody who knows about, cares for or has time for online marketing. Most clubs are probably quite aware that more people (yes, “customers”) get information about their product through unofficial online channels than through any other part of the media, including press, TV, and official online activity. But hey, there's tomorrow's press conference to organise, and Arthur from the Local Gazette's on the phone, and this Twitter thing will probably go away if we ignore it, won't it?

    • AshRead

      Thanks for your comment.

      I agree it's nice to hear that Sunderland have a digital media department, maybe our clubs are finally waking up to the new digital world? And it's great to see clubs like Portsmouth and Sunderland starting to claim their own identities online, every club is individual and I believe their online presence (not just their website) should represent this.

      One of the best recent examples is Manchester City, their site mcfc.co.uk is not only designed to the highest standards but also shows great use of social media, with both Twitter and Flickr feeds, they also have one of the best Facebook fan pages I've seen too. They have successfully built an online presence that embraces their fans and brings them closer to the club.

      I agree with you point that at many clubs there probably isn't anybody who knows about, cares for or has time for online marketing. But surely this has to change?

      Will 2010 be the year that Premier League 2.0 takes off?

      Thanks,
      Ash.

  • Inkster

    Stating the obvious, but driving traffic is not a viable strategy any more. It's the wrong way of looking at the question.

    You need to be focussed about how you can push your web content out (including commercial content) through social media and other networks.