Chelsea lead the way as clubs find important new social media outlet

Instagram stories is well over a year old now, and as a platform for brands and sports teams to take advantage of, it’s well established.

But it is also something that the biggest teams, like Premier League football clubs, haven’t really been able to innovate on too much until recently. The real-time nature of the platform might lend itself to news updates, but Twitter seems to have that covered, and that’s where most fans expect to get their club news. There’s also a perception of Instagram as a place for training ground clips and things of that nature, rather than the more innovative landscape of Twitter and Facebook. That means Instagram Stories has been a bit of an under-tapped resource.

Last week, data from Nielsen showed that clubs could get greater engagement on Instagram than they could on Twitter from fixed, weekly content like lineup announcements. But because the club’s job is to inform fans – rather than seek likes – Twitter remains king. Given that’s where fans will find the starting XI at the right time, rather than see the Instagram story hours after the game. Lineup announcements happen exactly an hour before kick-off, and so it makes sense for a club to prioritise Twitter.

But that means actually finding the right use for Instagram is vital for clubs given the engagement they can get. And over the last few weeks, Chelsea’s innovation has caught the eye.

Last week, the Premier League champions provided their fans with updates in the form of stories mocked up in a Pac-Man style. It was a similar story last week in terms of content, whilst the retro gaming theme was extended to Pinball this time, as they aim to recap the action through abstract storytelling.

Post engagement – likes and shares – may not be the most important job that a club has when it takes to social media. Just keeping in touch with fans is surely the main aim, despite the commercial responsibilities clubs may have. But that’s the balance teams now have to strike.

Clubs will be able to attract bigger sponsors and partners with more engagement on social media, and that makes the likes and shares incredibly important. And Instagram is probably becoming the most important platform for this.

Whilst Twitter is an already-established social platform for clubs, Instagram is growing. Data from Result Sports actually shows that the top clubs are now seeing their Instagram followings surpass those on Twitter, meaning it could overtake its older brother and find itself in second position, only behind Facebook. And it could become even more vitally important for clubs over the next few years.

Whilst Facebook will obviously remain a very important place for sports teams in general to engage their fans – with the possibility of live video among the most interesting option – there are worries that Facebook could become too powerful, demanding more than clubs might actually get out of the platform themselves. And if that’s the concern then the obvious solution is to diversify: if engagement is important, then look for ways to grow that outside of Facebook.

In that way, it shouldn’t be surprising to see clubs innovate on Instagram over the course of the season, attempting to cash in on their engagement on a growing platform whilst taking some of the pressure off their Facebook accounts.

Instagram stories have been around for a while, but this might be the season where football clubs start to think of it as something to put more effort into. So perhaps we can expect more Chelsea-style Instagramming in the near future.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 480 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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