Roma’s comeback against Barcelona gave us a social media masterclass

It was a night to remember for AS Roma.

Beating Barcelona in the Champions League is memorable in and of itself. But to do it in a quarter-final is special. On top of that, they did it to win the tie, qualify for the semis and overturn a three-goal deficit in stunning fashion. That only begins to paint a picture of what an historic feat the Giallorossi achieved. It will be remembered forever, no matter what happens next.

It’s times like these when we should be thankful for digital technology and in particular for social media. When we look back on this moment in the years to come, we won’t see grainy footage which hints at the emotion people felt at the time: we’ll get the whole thing immortalised for the ages. But that means there’s a certain amount of pressure in documenting it; there are few football Twitter accounts you’d trust to deliver the #feels quite as much as you’d trust Roma’s.

That was a night which will live through the ages, and is not just confined to the few hours in the aftermath of victory. Indeed, it may extend its direct effects long into future, too.

The reaction was spontaneous, just as it was experienced by fans. Indeed, how it was experienced by everyone – Roma fan or not. It captured the moment in time, and documented how people felt.

Take the above meme, for example. In a month’s time everyone will have forgotten about it. Posting a meme has no shelf life. But when you’re attempting to portray the moment exactly as it was, the passing craze of the time is incredibly important.

Not that anyone on a social media account should be thinking about recording events for posterity. Their job is to react to the moment and engage with people there and then. But there’s something nice about putting an historic event in its context, and whichever meme was in vogue at the time is a pretty good way of judging which Twitter era it belongs to. For better or for worse, memes are now a milestone of history.

There are many reasons why sport is important. One of them is to entertain, to bring people into a bubble where the outside world doesn’t matter. When you log into social media during a game and your timeline is swamped only by match updates, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing else existed. For Roma fans, certainly nothing else mattered.

References to the film Gladiator (perhaps a slight dig at Barcelona’s post ahead of the first leg, which portrayed the Camp Nou as the Colosseum) and, indeed, Greek Gods, notwithstanding.

The lesson here is that planning is crucial: you need to know what you’re going to do in case of a stunning comeback. But that it can’t all be planned and scripted: reacting to the moment is vital, and that can’t be penned into a social media content plan ahead of time.

And that’s because football is unpredictable. We all know the quotes and the iconic moments which prove it. That Alex Ferguson, the manager in charge of perhaps the most important comeback in footballing history (which took place at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, ironically), was present seemed apt. So too did his handshake with Francesco Totti.

But the most important social media lesson we can learn from Roma’s victory isn’t about saying the right thing at the right time or posting the most relatable meme. Sometimes being as stunned as everyone else is absolutely fine.

That’s when they really captured the mood…. But there was still time for a typically surrealist video.

In the maelstrom of excitement and shock, Roma still found the time to stay true to their roots!

EDIT: Italian digital agency IQUII Sport have analysed the growth and engagement that Roma’s social media accounts achieved thanks to their victory.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 539 posts

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

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