“Get your official club gnome, here”. “SALE on new home shirt ”. “Gaffer admits that he was wrong”. “Dress like Whyaye Man”.
The last couple of years of being a Newcastle United fan and following your club on Twitter has been painful.
In many ways it has mirrored the club. It’s been a one-way sales account that alienates and angers fans with a sheer lack of emotion or apathy. There has been a complete absence of a communications strategy, with the official account refusing to interact with fans, provide a club voice or produce tailored, worthwhile behind-the-scenes content and insight. @NUFCOfficial has languished behind its Premier League rivals in its approach to social media.
However, this all seems about to change. After enlisting the help of Twitter’s ‘Head of Sport’, Alex Trickett, Newcastle United have been making moves to be different – and today, a new personality emerged.
Switching from @NUFCOfficial to @NUFC (with crisper, cleaner imagery), inside a morning, @NUFC had interacted more with fans on Twitter than the previous few months combined. A statement on the clubs website read:
Newcastle United’s official Twitter account has been relaunched – to bring supporters a much-improved service. Starting with a new, simpler name of @NUFC, the account will be used to make you feel as close to the Magpies as possible, both on and off the pitch.
We have unrivalled access to all areas of the Club, from the first team, through to the under-21s and Academy, and not forgetting the work of our official charity, the Newcastle United Foundation. And it is only fair that we share that with you, in as much detail as possible.
Behind the scenes videos and images, exclusive Twitter competitions and a personality are just some of the features that our revamped account will provide.
They have opened a new digital era with a one of the items promised above – a giveaway of an NUFC shirt in a retweet and follow competition. Not groundbreaking, no. However, the shirt is signed by all NUFC players on Twitter. Again, not groundbreaking, but this is an unprecedented level of detail for Newcastle United on Twitter, and it’s a welcome one. They’ve also clearly encouraged players to support the rebrand, with Yoan Gouffran and Paul Dummett amongst the players to Tweet out their support.
It shows signs of a strategy behind an idea and it also shows platform-specific thinking. A step in the right direction.
The rebrand of Newcastle United on Twitter is a big deal. For a club that has banned local journalists, and coldly shunned club transparency; any communication and interaction on social media is vital for the fans. Whether it will be allowed to become a fan-centric platform that encourages open conversation, is an entirely different case. It appears that the appetite from internal lower levels is there, but will they be supported from the higher echelons?
Up until now, Mike Ashley’s profit-focused mindset has dictated much of the goings on at NUFC. Margins, not fan morale, have been at the heart of decisions and this seems to have resulted in suffocating resource for digital channels and content. A continuation of that mind-set will see the channel resort to the faceless, commercial entity it has been for a while.
However, attention and a willingness to change could allow the account to become a key tool for the club in diluting fan disillusionment. It won’t happen overnight, but the enthusiasm for change is important to see.
They’ll just be hoping that Alan Pardew decides to stop head-butting people…