Football (soccer to our North American friends :-)) and social media are a ‘marriage made in heaven’. The in-born passion of fans and the engagement opportunities presented by social media are natural bedfellows. It is a rather surprising fact, therefore, that the top football teams in Europe have been slow to respond to the fan engagement potential of new media. Some good progress, however, is currently being made.
As part of our on-going ‘Social Media Watch‘ series, we have been tracking the social media progress being made by Europe’s top football clubs since 2008. Two student research projects, submitted in August, 2008 (Barrie) and February, 2010 (Murdoch), both concluded that only very limited progress had been made covering their use of social media on their own web sites and their active involvement in external social media channels (see previous post for the methodology used in our ‘Social Media Watch’ series). For example, in the most recent study, only four clubs (Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool) were found to have official facebook pages. Only five had an official presence on twitter (the previous 4 plus Olympique de Marseille). There are, of course, notable exceptions to this with Chelsea FC, in particular, being pioneers in their use of the Internet for fan engagement (see ‘The Shed’ section of the Chelsea web site)
Our most recent evaluation, undertaken in January, 2011, shows that much better progress has been made over the last year or so, at least in terms of their use of major external social media channels. As shown in the ‘League Table’ attachment at the end of this post, almost all of the top 20 teams in Europe now have official facebook (18) and twitter (14) pages. The number of ‘likers’ and ‘followers’ is also very impressive, with the top ten clubs having more than 35 million facebook ‘likers’ and 1.5 million twitter ‘followers’. This begins to show the real potential of social media for sports marketing organisations. It should be noted, however, that the level of fan engagement through the official web sites of most clubs remains very limited, with only a few exceptions.
This short post is part of an on-going research project. Future posts will examine in more detail how the top clubs are actually using facebook, twitter and other social media channels to build fan engagement. A key question to answer is whether these new channels are being used to encourage real two-way dialogue with fans as opposed to being just another one-way sales/broadcasting medium?
As usual comments and feedback are very welcome………..
Jim and Alan
Thanks to Vincent Hamill for compiling these stats.