Liverpool FC now has an online version of ‘The Kop’. This recent development in the social media sphere cannot be ignored, especially from a sports marketing angle. The main reason is because it is the first of its kind – a proper social media hub developed by a football club just for their fans. It is interesting from a marketing perspective, for the club and other football and/or sports clubs and organizations and also for the fans.
Looking at it from an internal marketing point of view, creating a closed space such as this for fans and bringing them together as a community, gives Liverpool FC a chance to capture information about their fans and get to know them better, therefore giving them direct access to their fans without depending on a third party network, and their own rules.
Most of the top Premier League clubs now have a presence on Facebook, Twitter or both, and this has allowed them to get closer to their fans and also gave clubs an idea of how many people were actively following them online. Also, since the Premier League’s popularity has become global, a social media presence allowed clubs to get a rough idea of their following outside the UK and actively monitor what was being said about them.
Even with these advancements, there are certain areas that are lacking. It is common now to see fans commenting on clubs’ Facebook posts, but the level of interactivity between fans is minimal if not non-existent, in other words it is a diluted kind of conversation. The reason for that is simple. A football club or any brand that uses these social networks for that matter is only a tiny part of the large picture which is nothing but Facebook itself. So a fan commenting on say Liverpool’s Facebook page is still essentially on Facebook to interact with his friends and not fellow Liverpool supporters.
A football club is not like any mainstream brand as the level of emotional involvement of a supporter is something many brands can only dream of. Therefore, with its own social network, Liverpool FC has taken care of that primary motive of a user signing up. The intention of a user is naturally to engage and interact with fellow supporters of Liverpool.
What makes ‘The Kop’ different from a football forum from the user perspective is that it is multi-dimensional in nature compared to a forum. There is no variety in content on a forum. On ‘The Kop’, fans can also upload photos, videos and for those who like being a bit wordy, they can start their own blog on this site as well. When I studied a football forum in detail early last year I found that members had a genuine desire to be noticed by other members of the forum and to gain a level of respect for not only their knowledge of the game but also as ardent followers of the respective team/club. Therefore an online community or social network like ‘The Kop’ enables members the opportunity to show their affiliation towards the club in many different ways.
It is quite early to go into an analysis of how this particular development at Liverpool has fared, as it does take time to build “social capital” which Coleman (American Journal of Sociology, 1988) defined as the resources that were accumulated as a result of relationships between people. But I expect that the ‘virtual resources’ available here will be richer than any club can obtain from any other forum or third party social network.
So I think that ‘The Kop’ is great not only from a user’s perspective as a place to engage and interact with the Liverpool FC community but also a marketing point of view for the club as they will have a reservoir of information that can help them deliver quality to the fans in both the real and virtual world. Therefore this development could be one worth monitoring.