Ash Read recently had the chance to speak about social media with Chris Nield, Social Media Executive at Manchester City Football Club….
In my Facebook and Twitter Premier League blog post I stated that in my opinion Manchester City have really set the bar for the other Premier League clubs in terms of social media and online presence, so it was great to get the opportunity to speak to Chris about the clubs use of social media.
How did Manchester City get started with social media?
Our social media strategy was initiated to coincide with the launch of the club’s new official website in July 2009. There were always plans for the new site to integrate and embrace social media as an additional stream through which we connect and communicate with our supporters. Rather than the site simply having an omnipotent voice, we wanted to include the fans directly within the content of the site.
The club’s official twitter feed was set up towards the end of the 2008/09 season and using this we were able to gauge the opinion of the fans as to what they want and what would work for us when we came to decide the direction in which we wanted to take the club’s social media strategy.
What are the key aims of your social media strategy?
The key aims of our social media strategy are –
To provide the fans with additional and inclusive streams of communication direct to and from the club.
To provide additional, engaging and exclusive content to our fans on social media networks.
To build virtuous relationships with fan sites, blogs and forums that already exist online.
The simplest way we measure the ROI of our social media activities is by tracking the rate of growth of members to our social networks (number of fans on the club’s Facebook page, followers on Twitter and members of our Flickr group) however we regularly review analytics, link tracking and interactions using various tools in order to gauge its real value. Unlike other large organisations, I’m of the opinion that social media is not simply a numbers game. Every supporter who has decided to embrace what we’re on these networks has a voice that we must listen and respond to in order for us to be properly utilizing the power and potential of social media.
What affect has social media had on the traffic to your official website?
Following the rapid growth of the club’s official Facebook page, we’ve been able to determine that Facebook is the third largest referrer to the club’s website behind direct hits and google searches. During traditionally quiet periods on site, we’re able to boost traffic through other means such as competitions and call-outs for supporters that wouldn’t receive the same amount of interest without social media.
When researching my Twitter and Facebook premier league article it seemed very few clubs had official Facebook pages, why do you feel this could be?
There are several reasons why I believe this is the case. Namely the amount of time and investment required to employ someone to dedicate their time to the running, management and moderation of social networks is simply not a feasible endeavour for other clubs. Running social media networks for organisations the size of Premier League football clubs is something that can’t be taken as secondary to the club’s other activities online. It takes time to develop and grow an engaging and complimentary presence in social media which is something that other clubs may not be equipped to undertake or feel there is much worth in at present.
Well, the thinking behind using Flickr was to embrace the huge amount of talent amongst our fanbase. A common pastime for many of our fans is to use photography and design to express their feelings about the club and although it is more of a niche network, Flickr is regarded as the best and easiest way for people to share their creative side online. As well as having an official photo stream, our official Flickr group invites sharing and discussion amongst fans. Some of the images that have been posted in the group have actually been taken on board by the club and helped inspire new PR and retail campaigns.
What are the clubs views on players using social media? Does the clubs have a set of social media guidelines for players and staff?
Whilst we don’t discourage our players and staff from using social media sites and having personal profiles, we do have guidelines asking them not to disclose any sensitive information regarding themselves or other people at the club. The only sites we endorse are the club’s official presences.
What do you feel the future holds for sports and social media?
I feel as though it’s only going to grow and grow. As new technology, applications and user-centred networks develop, social media will become even more integrated within the sports world. At City we’ve already incorporated some quite groundbreaking ideas such as our Facebook fans choosing the music to be played at the stadium on matchdays through the Umbro Playlist as well as voting for the man of the match on occasion and there will be many more exciting advances in the pipeline over the coming seasons, I’m sure. For us it’s all about opening the doors of the club to our supporters.
Why do you feel many Premier League clubs have been slow to pick up on social media?
I think a lot of that is down to how the club perceives itself within the footballing world. Some clubs may see themselves simply as a brand that exists separately from the day to day lives of their supporters and because there are no real direct revenue stream, do not see the value of social media. For various reasons, others may feel that social media is not a worthwhile endeavour for them and somewhat of a minefield that is best steered clear of. At City we’re proud of the way that the club is able to reach out to supporters and we’re proud of the way the fans have reacted and embraced what we’re trying to do. We’re also keen to ensure that the club remains at the forefront of new developments in the field of social media whilst it is imperative that the club’s soul, the very reason why people fall in love with Manchester City, is retained.