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Building a Positive Supporters Community in an Age of Social Media

Football fans are a special kind of fan. They bleed their team’s colors, they never miss a minute and they’re the kind of supporter that will chant and sing for every single minute of the game; regardless of the outcome. They are committed to their team

And nowhere is this more prevalent than in today’s age of social media. This is the present and future of being a fan. Social media is the final frontier, where you can participate with and engage with your team. Much like with their choice of club, fans commit to a social medium and when they commit, they really commit. We all know that the game’s not over just because they’ve played their 90+ minutes and the final score’s been announced. Nor is the turnstile the end of the fan experience. It’s now moved online to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. 

Social Media Is Your Megaphone

Think about your last in-stadium experience. There you are, surrounded by thousands of fans, all sharing their collective experiences and energy. Not only are you supporters of the club, but as trite as it sounds, you’re supporters of each other. Everyone is lifting each other up with their steadfast passion and dedication to the team. There’s an interpersonal aspect to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people who care about the club as much as you do, in your cheers, your unfiltered opinions, your elation at a winning goal, and your anger and frustration at the referee. The same goes for who you are as a fan on social media. In fact, there, your voice gets louder. Consider this; a survey by Sport+Markt estimates that the global fan base of Real Madrid is around 450 million, which easily outpaces the total number of stadium seats available to football fans globally.

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In recent years, social has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of offering more user interaction and opening up a field for communication between fans and other fans, players, and the clubs themselves. Social media elevates you to a new level of fandom, and it invites new fans into the fold; some that might not be able to make it to a game, or afford to sit in the stadium. Social media equalizes everyone and gives them a voice. There’s power in the fan community that is generated around a club’s social channels, one that can be leveraged for good. 

But it’s not just about creating a community. It’s also about what the social media details can teach you.

 

A Championship-Level Social Following

In-stadium, it’s about attendance. At home, it’s the live-viewing numbers and overall ratings, and that doesn’t even include the eyeballs that are watching from the pub/bar. In social, it’s all about engagements. Fans want to interact with your brand. Depending on what platform they, and you, are on, you can find plenty of trackable data and analytics that can be useful to how you utilize your social media. More and more, whether you’re watching the game live or on tv, fans are using social media as a second screen for updates and talking live to their friends, other fans, and even the commentators/announcers.  

Consider this, according to a study by Catalyst, when it comes to content that gets fans looking away from the scoreboard, 72% were all about pre-gaming with exciting content like quizzes, contests, throwback photos, bloopers, and friendly debates.  Not to mention that the use of social media is on the rise after games as well. 

But it’s about more than just people ‘liking’ a photo or retweeting something you’ve said. It’s about who’s looking and what they’re doing with that content. 

 

Everyone Wants to Be a Part of the Team

One of the key wins for social media is how it allows the fans to interact with the team directly, and many teams make it a point to respond back. This is the key to building that sense of community within your organization and supporters base. Fans don’t just want to hear the pros talk, but get involved and have their voices heard. That’s not to say that there isn’t some merit to your star players having their own voice. The internet and social media have opened up a line of communication between fans and sports stars, and many of them take to their own social media outlets to praise wins, apologize for errors and use it as a mini mobile press conference, with fan interaction. 

The more the fans and players communicate, the bigger the interpersonal connection becomes, and the greater the impact and influence you’ll have on the audience. Especially in times of playing in empty stadiums, with fans who are starved for sports, this is a fantastic opportunity to woo/win existing fans and entice new ones to join.

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How to Do It Right

Start a Conversation: The key to building a positive supporter community on your social channels is through social listening, and making one-to-one fan engagement a key pillar of your overall strategy. It’s about liking and retweeting and consistently replying to fans on all the platforms. You want to create a dialogue, not just a one-way conversation. Even those that are only there to bash and troll, offer a learning experience in how you address them. This isn’t just about throwing content up there and hoping that it sticks, but offering something that entices engagement.

According to RivalIQ, Twitter is the medium with the most frequent posts from sports teams, with 10.5/day. But that only offers an engagement rate of 0.038%. Instagram, on the other hand, has significantly less daily posts (1.70), but offers a return of 2.28% engagement. So picking the right medium and the right content that creates a 2-way flow, is key.

That personal and direct touch helps fans feel heard in the sea of stands and shows that they’re appreciated. If you can do this, you’re more likely to keep their loyalty, regardless of whether or not they’re making it to the games, watching at home, or keeping up with the play-by-play on social media.

 

Keep it Real and Authentic: Fans know the difference between a moment that’s genuine and one that’s been crafted and manufactured. Everyone is media savvy these days. They can see through clickbait and other desperate attempts at pumping up your engagement rate, and it will sour the relationship. Use the talents that the players have off the field to your advantage. Do they like to cook? Collect things? Adept at TikTok dances? Have a great sense of humor? Love to workout and are willing to share their training tips? Are they involved/spearheading charity initiatives? Use it as a part of your social media content mix.

 

Care about your fans: You need to think about what fans actually want to see and how they want to experience the game and invite them in that way. Use a dialogue via your social media to get ideas directly from them, and don’t shy away from coupons, discounts, and contests to incentivize them. This is a good way to get some fans who traditionally only watch from home or make it to one home game a season. Much like in stadiums, fans are segmented in strata of fandom - from the season ticket holders and sponsors down to those who support the club, but can’t afford the seats. You want to find ways to reach them all.  

 

Have fun with your fans: At the end of the day, it’s just a game- a beautiful, exhilarating, and challenging (sometimes frustrating) game. When it’s good and everyone’s firing on all cylinders and winning, then the fans are feeling it. That’s the easy part. When things start to get tense and stressful, then you need to own it. There’s no harm in lightening the mood and silly content can go a long way in the off-season to keep fans in the zone. This is where starting a running joke or involving the surrounding community or city can do volumes for your engagement and retention. Also, that throwback/historical photo that was mentioned earlier can really drive engagement. Bloopers too.

Bring Them All Together Into One Community.

Right now, a team’s social media following is fragmented. With the majority using Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter (in that order), with Instagram creeping up, and TikTok on the rise, it’s a challenge to generate and upkeep multiple streams of conversations and content. It’s especially taxing when you don’t own/operate the channel. This is where official fan apps come in handy. 

Having your very own, dynamic app would check all the boxes to create a positive following. An official app that offers access to players, coaches, and owners, while offering contests, incentives, and behind-the-scenes activity would be a game-changer. Especially if fans could display their fandom and share it with others in an official team-branded social channel/app. That would be the sum total of everything listed above and would be an absolute win to build a strong and positive team behind yours.

We, at Belong, can help with that.