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How can the changing times of professional football provide us with learning points for social media?

  • 18th November 201318/11/13
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I’ve been a football fan for as long as I can remember.  Exactly how long does that mean? Well, to give you an idea some of my earliest footballing memories are of Roberto Baggio lighting up the World Cups of 1990 and 1994, a young Ryan Giggs beginning to tear up and down the Manchester United left wing and playing just about every football game going on the Sega Mega Drive.

So I make that a fair few years back then! How has the game changed from these memories? Not from a footballing sense but just how close are we now to the stars that would only previously have been seen on the pitch on a Saturday afternoon.

There is no doubt that in the current day we have an unprecedented level of scrutiny of games and players themselves, due in no small part to the impact that Sky Television and television revenues as a whole have had.  Every moment is seen, every reaction scrutinised and every decision analysed to death.  This no longer applies to the pitch itself either; a crafty cigarette, a discreet visit to an estate agent or a late night lapse from that carefully crafted sports science diet will all land a player not on the back page, but the front and many pages in between.

Nor is this a seasonal observation.  Gone are the days when a transfer window would go by with news of a recent signing only being made clear in tomorrow’s newspaper.  This reporting of old has been replaced with an inevitable summer transfer saga.  Whether it is Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney or some other top tier talent, bet your bottom dollar that one of them will last from the earliest days of the summer to the dying moments of the transfer window.

Why is it that these transfer sagas are now at the forefront of our consciousness for months that should and would otherwise have been spent basking in the intermittent summer sun?

I believe that the impact of social media on professional football is a window into the interaction that companies and brands are now able to have with their customers.  Football fans are the customers of their club; they are what make the majestic money spinning wheels of the worldwide football industry turn.  Without their mass consumption of media, whether it is shirts, season tickets or online merchandise the wheels would cease to turn.

Think what social media has done to the relationship between club and player and also player and fan.  The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and even Joey Barton are now closer to those who in past times would only get within touching distance of their idols from the terrace on a Saturday afternoon.

Now every tweet provides insight, every Facebook update a window into the life of the player, every Instagram image an added take on what it is to be a player.  The scrutiny of these is also unprecedented; a Facebook update from Wayne Rooney this summer provided every national newspaper fodder when he thanked Roy Hodgson but failed to mention David Moyes.

Stepping away from the minutia of each message, the overriding impact has been to bring the player closer to us, the everyday person who once would have pretended to be our favorite player in the playground.

How does this equate to the average business and what can we learn?

The opportunities are there to be grasped.  Where you once would have only heard from a customer when they came into your shop or gave you a call, you now have the opportunity to build the same relationships as the player with his fans.  To reinforce buying habits through long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships fostered through dialogue.

Make sure that you are constantly moving closer to your customers, that you are no longer hearing their news in the newspaper the next day, but reacting to and responding to it in real time.  Only then will you be on your way to making the most of what social media can offer you and your business.  Be quick to move your customers from the Saturday fan to the constant media consumer.

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