FA Cup Furore: Outrage shows why ‘personality’ is so hard to achieve on social media

Over the weekend The FA felt that it had to come out and apologise to both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur for any offence taken to a tweet from the official Emirates FA Cup Twitter account.

The tweet took a light-hearted view on how Chris Smalling had Harry Kane ‘in his pocket’ during the semi-final clash – a game in which Kane didn’t manage a shot on target and United came out 2-1 winners.

When it comes to social media we keep banging on about how accounts need personality, and to offer the fans something they want to get. Not just the same old dry pieces that are so safe they would pass any European car crash test. We laud the US teams and likes of NBA and NFL for their fun and engaging use of platforms as if it’s some untouchable goal. And AS Roma have this season shown us how it can be done properly.

But when it is tried in the UK by an organisation, especially one as straight as The FA, then it is derided and you’d think someone had been hurt such is the backlash. The tone and content is planned out in advance and the team would have gone through how to treat the game, clips needed, etc. But if the team(s) then complain then it brings in people from much higher up and then this happens.

I’m sure this example will be brought up in our event tomorrow evening in Manchester as it’s something we seem to constantly battle with: how can a team or rights holder really engage with young fans in a way that appeals to them in the right way. Not trying and get involved in the banter that a ArsenalFanTV or Sporf can maybe get away with. But in ways that offer something engaging, entertaining and in a way that connects with their audience.

It’s a fine line between what is and what’s not acceptable, and we tend to see it when it appears on the wrong side of the line. In my 8+ years working in social media it has been a constant challenge, but one that can be overcome. I just wish that those who work within the social media roles were given the support and trust that is needed for them to truly flourish from the top levels. Instead I expect the content will be even more tightly controlled and any personality taken out. But one day I trust we’ll get there!


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Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 820 posts

Dan is the Founder & CEO of Digital Sport. Can be found at sports industry events and heard every week on the Digital Sport Insider podcast. @DanielMcLaren

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