Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Huddersfield Town vs Twitter - The Social Media Goldfish Bowl

Some of Huddersfield Town's first team squad have begun to experiment with Twitter... I take a look at the prospective victories... and the potential own goals and gaffes.

I confess to taking a keen interest in the progress of Huddersfield Town Football Club.  They are my local team and I've been a season ticket holder for several years. I'm actually very passionate about the club, the players and their performance on and off the pitch.  It's been a roller-coaster of a Christmas period, but, after securing their second victory of the season over Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday this week, Town are on the up!

So, Town are one of my passions.  If you follow me on Twitter, or read any of my blog-posts, you'll know that I'm pretty passionate about social media too!

Until now, my twin passions for Town and for social media have come together through the connection with and discussion in-between Town fans from the local area and from across the globe.  So, imagine my delight when I noticed three or four of our current first-team squad experimenting with Twitter over the Christmas and New Year period.  The opportunity to get to know what makes them tick and gain some insights into how they work and what interests them after the final whistle has blown is very compelling!

However, having witnessed some of the gaffes made by those in the public eye through their use of Twitter, I also became a little bit nervous... especially when one of the guys started grumbling about too much time spent on the bench (to be fair, he manoeuvred himself out of difficulty on this one with some aplomb!).  

So what does Twitter mean for Football Clubs and for Players?

On Twitter, whether you're in the public eye or not, you really do place yourself under scrutiny... in a goldfish bowl, if you like!  That's all good, provided you take care about what you say, how you say it and to whom.  Also, tweeting from a smartphone just might reveal your location... which is OK if that's what you planned, but could present some awkward moments and potential security risks if not.

I know that, from a player perspective, some clubs take a very hard line on players' use of social media - sometimes banning it.  However, this is often an opportunity lost as it presents a chance for a club to demonstrate how switched-on and progessive it is in both in the Football League and across other sports.  

For the players, this is a great opportunity for them to build and manage their own personal 'brands'.  

Equally, this presents a great chance for a club to extend its own relationships with fans, customers and sponsors, by working with the players to ensure that their own images as positive role models support the club's vision.  This is also a good time to align the players' activities, if appropriate, with the club's existing social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

Basic social media training for management, players and coaching staff at any sporting club could enable them to get it right, build the right relationships with other professionals, fans and the media and avoid the various pitfalls for themselves and their clubs.  

Similarly, creating a Social Media Policy which connects a club's marketing and communications strategy with the players' individual profiles, could benefit clubs, as they develop techniques for monitoring discussions and 'sentiment' across various social platforms.   

This would reinforce relationships with the media, fans and other clubs and ultimately drive revenue through sponsorship, enhanced ticket sales, innovative promotions and invaluable word-of-mouth support.

So, Town vs Twitter... who'll win?

I'm feeling very positive about Huddersfield Town's performance on the pitch this season and it was great to be at the Yorkshire derby yesterday.  

Off the pitch, Town is a club which loves to innovate... its matchday programme was reinvented last season as Give Us An H and has won awards because, rather than look at other club's programmes for ideas, the club looked at the quality monthlies market and created a glossy booklet which looks more like a GQ or an Esquire.  

I'm hoping that the positive attitude on and off the pitch, extends into the world of social media and sees the club continue to turn heads throughout Football League and beyond.  

I look forward to seeing the rest of the squad take their first steps into social media and feel sure that they will be taking their social media coaching as seriously as they take their fitness coaching.


  1. Lovely post.

    I'm a Swansea City fan, and two of our players---Ashley Williams and Nathan Dyer---are both playing the Twitter game (the former more so than the latter).

    There have been positive effects: clearly, some fans feel closer to their on-field heroes; some great charitable work has happened that (possibly) might not have happened otherwise. Also, to be fair, some of the journalists covering Swans games are active on Twitter and quick to reply to fans. So, all in all, there is a warm, happy vibe about it all. Certainly, as a rule, the Swans supporters on Twitter are more positive than those on the message boards.

    There have been a few hiccups, though. One tweet of Ashley's was (not unfairly) interpreted as a dig at the fans and picked up by the Western Mail; there have been one or two retweets by Nathan that, perhaps, someone in the public eye should have thought better off. (However, I won't be throwing any stones from my glasshouse.)

    An interesting side-effect is that fans' perspectives are skewed: there are a plethora of comments along the lines of "Ashley, you were awesome today" and "Nathan, you were clearly man of the match" after every game. (But maybe I don't see the "you were rubbish today" tweets.)

    Another interesting side-effect will come when Ashley Williams leaves (as he surely will) for a Premiership club. I suspect that the pain associated with losing a popular player will be increased massively as a consequence of the relationships developed via Twitter.

  2. Thanks for the comment Andrew.

    It's good to hear how other clubs and players are beginning to get things right.

    Positive acceptance of social media and a proactive approach to managing it is the key, as it's not going to go away.

    Blanket bans on players using Twitter could result in some real lost opportunities for clubs looking to engage with the community and could, in the long run, be quite damaging.

    Thanks again.

  3. Well, well, well. I really enjoyed reading this.

    Overtime, I agree. Social Media should be part of the norm when it comes to putting together the branding, marketing and communication strategy of not only the club, but the individual players.

    This isn't something to be "banned". It's an opportunity to reach out and engage in ways that could never be done before at very little cost. Making the fans experience that bit more personal and unique... perhaps even the players experiences as well.

    If you keep truth, honesty and common sense at the core of any strategy then that should help pave the way for a truly rewarding relationship between Club, Players and fans.

    Oh... and I'm a Watford FC and Dundee FC Fan ;-)

  4. Sarah

    Thanks very much for commenting here.

    I agree that this is a great, low-cost way for clubs to build relationships with all sorts of stakeholders... especially the fans.

    'Truth, Honesty and Common Sense' have got to be at the heart of any social media strategy.

    I wonder if any of the players at Watford FC and Dundee FC are using Twitter?