Looking at the absolute basics for a second, what are the core reasons behind the desire to follow sports teams and sports stars – and for the latter you could equate this to any celebrity – on social media?
In a sporting sense, score updates, news, transfers and more can all be found elsewhere across a number of channels; and yes, while the rule, “It’s not a done deal until the club confirms it” is true, gossip sites and resources of varying accuracy are often far quicker to report juicy info due to the lack of red tape, as backed up by high follower numbers for “in the know” sports journalists and wannabe news breakers.
As I see it, we follow via social media for a sense of connection, as accounts build a bridge and offer the perception of one to one communications between fans and blue ticked verified heroes. For a quick example, select any celebrity tweet of note and scan the multitude of replies, as fan/troll responses are written as if an SMS text reply to the personality in question. In short, the replies are personal, even when ill advised abuse or gushing praise of near stalker proportions.
So from a professional perspective, either for individual sports stars, teams, associations and more, what are our responsibilities as content and brand guardians? Or to put it another way, how can we stand out or make an impression? What’s our aim?
In my time as spokesman and social channels manager within sports PR, even during times of intense scrutiny (check my former club’s recent history of headline making), the goal was to always add a sense of personality, creativity and humility behind the brand, making communications as informal and engaging as possible. Whenever I was able, I tried to take fans beyond the barriers and behind the scenes, using social media as the informal vehicle.
On the communications front, by maintaining lines of trust, common decency and respect can still be shown, even when the proverbial has hit the fan and fans raise angry voices. In fact, it could be argued that it’s precisely during these times of heightened pressure that the initial instinct to pull up the comms shutters and hide should be ignored.
Whatever the situation or emotional state, social accounts can be used to positive effect, either via the main account or an authorised spokesperson as appropriate, showing that topics aren’t being ignored and brushed under carpets.
Much can be achieved if you push forward with integrity and think of the bigger picture, refusing to allow a few negative replies from the usual suspects to railroad a good intention. There are ways to address delicate issues calmly without falling foul of fans, or for that matter owner emotions. Diplomacy is key.
All supporters really want is to be treated with respect and to know that their voices are being heard, even if the answer to their questions is sometimes a ‘no’.
They want a strong connection and to feel involved, so let’s open the door with two way conversations and respect paying punters on matters relating to the club, organisation or brand they invest in physically and emotionally.
Maintain the connection and make your communications personal, because rest assured, for die hard fans, it very much is the case for them.