Top football clubs might want to cut back on Facebook, but they’ll find themselves trapped
Last year, Facebook had been paying football clubs to produce videos to be posted on their accounts on the social media platform.
As Facebook Live grew and the rise of video continued, football clubs – as some of the biggest accounts on the site – were the obvious vehicle to create content to keep Facebook’s audience on their site instead of going anywhere else.
Recently, though, that’s stopped. Facebook have decided to stop paying clubs to create content, and low engagement rates are seemingly to blame. And the result could be that some of the world’s biggest football clubs decide to look away from Facebook to host their live streams in the future.
A report in Digiday this week suggests that clubs themselves are starting to wonder whether Facebook is actually worth the effort: if engagement is low, that probably means return on investment is low, too.
But this just shows the catch-22 that most football clubs find themselves in. Facebook is so big that there’s really no way anyone – not even Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United – can ignore it. In fact, the biggest clubs are often in the most difficult positions when it comes to a problem like this. After years of commercial deals and sponsorships, the likes of Manchester United have quite a few partners to keep happy, and most of the newer sponsors have signed up to work with United on the basis of the size of the club. And whilst social media reach is hardly the objective measure of a club’s size, it is one way a brand will choose who they want to sponsor.
Fans of a football club are arguably the most emotionally invested and engaged audiences you can find, and so brands want to get their logo out in front of it. When you have 100m likes from such engaged followers on Facebook, then, you’re going to have sponsors doing whatever they can to get a piece of that.
Metrics based solely on followers and reach are deeply flawed, and the industry is moving away from that and on to engagement, but even if the engagement is low for clubs making videos specifically for Facebook, the sheer size of the platform means they’ll think twice about putting their content elsewhere. The recent RESULT Sports ranking of football clubs and their presence on various social media platforms shows the problem: Bayern Munich, for example, have over 40m likes on Facebook, but only 4m followers on Twitter. Only four clubs in the top 75 of the rankings have more Twitter followers than they do Facebook likes – two Saudi Arabian clubs, one Indonesian club and one from Brazil.
To put it another way, a low percentage of engagement on Facebook might still seem quite high on Twitter or Instagram, and limiting Facebook out of principle would be cutting off your nose and poking out your eyes to spite your face.
No one doubts the scale of Facebook, but when put this way, it’s quite a stark choice – stay on Facebook or you’ll probably suffer a worse fate on platforms which just don’t have the reach.
For now, it looks like everyone’s trapped on Facebook.
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