What’s stopping sports teams from embracing social media?

Over the past few months there are certain things that have become apparent when talking to sports teams and associations about social media.

We knew there would be barriers in people’s mindsets along the way as this way of thinking is so new and unproven outside of the US.  But when you start out on meetings you don’t fully appreciate what the concerns are and why they have them.

Sport has many advantages over brands in any other business as you have a widespread, loyal, passionate fanbase.  Businesses have the problem of starting from close to zero and having to give a reason why people should connect with them and translate them into paying customers.

If you are a Manchester United, Liverpool or Real Madrid you already have a global reach and draw revenues in the hundreds of millions per year. 

The mindset is different.  It is about connecting with fans and speaking to people who may not be able to make it the match each week.  What better way to reach out to those in Australia, India, USA and Europe than via social media?

 The biggest fear by far amongst teams is the same as their strongest asset…. the fans.  Many clubs have been down the road of hosting forums on their main sites in the 90’s and 00’s with the majority being shut down after being abused on a Saturday afternoon with unhappy fans.

It is a genuine hurdle that is going to take a lot to overcome.  Why should we open ourselves up to criticism on official sites?  How can we control what is being said about us?  These are common questions that are being asked at each meeting.

The simple answer is that you cannot control what is being said about your team, it is going to happen anyway.  Would you rather be involved in the conversation, be able to respond to blatant untruths and interact with those who obviously share your passion for the club? Or would you prefer to bury your head in the sand and pretend it is not happening?

Some tips to those who look after social media at clubs or are thinking about it

  • Accept that criticism is going to happen
  • Be prepared to engage with fans and be involved in conversations.  Don’t just stick up an RSS feed and think you are engaged in social media with your fans.
  • Know which comments to reply to which to ignore (some want to initiate an argument through a provocative post)
  • Don’t delete every comment that is critical.  Have house rules about swearing and spam posts and only delete those.
  • Be prepared to test new ways to engage and measure them.  There is no perfect solution and it is still very new.  Be prepared to lead the way and see what works
  • Involve the fans in decisions.  If changing a logo or looking for ideas, ask the fans their opinion.  There will be some rubbish in there but also the odd gold nugget.
  • Fans want to feel they are involved and listened to.  Social media allows this interaction and you have to be prepared to be transparent, open and honest (this throws traditional PR strategy out of the window).

I am sure attitudes will change as more clubs, organisations and businesses do it well and show the way and there are not many places for people to turn to for advice.

What other barriers do you think there are to overcome?

About author

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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