Football clubs, the web and social media. What can we learn from them? How does your team fare? And is there any correlation between the quality of the team’s on-line presence and their performance on the pitch?
Football’s been in the news all week so I reckon it’s a good time to investigate how the SPL clubs are performing in the on-line world.
Every team has a large community of fans who follow it. You’d think that would be the perfect starting point for a successful social media strategy!
So who’s taking full advantage and what can we learn from them?
Watch the video clip to find out more…
So who is at the top of the on-line league?
Motherwell, Rangers and Celtic belong here.
Celtic beat their Glasgow rivals in the style stakes. www.celticfc.net is beautifully designed with large high quality pictures given the space they deserve. Celtic lead the way for Scottish football on Facebook with a link to their official page which has 34,716 people who LIKE it. Video clips from press conferences are added here, the club responds to tabloid rumours and Celtic’s Facebook is moderated meaning any inappropriate material is deleted. They say Twitter is “coming soon”.
I’d give Rangers www.rangers.co.uk the edge for content. Fans can sign up for a weekly e-mail from the manager, and a video clip started playing immediately when the page loaded giving me a preview of the next match. A cluttered design means they might not get the credit they deserve and the SPL champions are missing out by not having an official Facebook presence. An unofficial Rangers page has 54 thousand LIKES but a lot of abusive content.
So the Big 2 can learn from each other, and we can all learn from Motherwell.
They bring it all together very nicely. Great design, good content although someone needs to persuade new manager Stuart McCall to do a weekly blog like his predecessor Craig Brown did.
The Fir Park side do something clever with their “Latest News” section. Each story gets a one paragraph outline. To read the full article you need to register for free. It takes seconds but there’s a range of optional questions which give the club powerful information about who’s using the site. They can capture this and turn it into targeted marketing.
Motherwell clearly have a strategy and things they want to achieve on-line. Their Facebook has 3,831 LIKES and there’s a Twitter feed which follows other people and interacts with them. It has personality and there’s even a Flickr feed embedded on www.motherwellfc.co.uk which means fans who take their own pictures have them featured on the main page.
Well done to Hearts and St Johnstone for thinking about their communities. www.heartsfc.co.uk includes a section for “new fans” (Motherwell do this too) and www.perthstjohnstonefc.co.uk has an area for Polish supporters.
I get the feeling from Hearts’ page that the commercial team have the edge over the content providers! The advertising and promotion just feels a bit full on with box adverts breaking up news stories after a single paragraph and this takes away from what is some pretty good content. Although there IS an official Hearts Facebook page, there’s no obvious link to it from the main site and this could be costing them followers.
St Mirren suffer from limitations in site design but are ahead of the game with social media and all the teams in the SPL provide full match reports with high quality pictures from all their games.
St Johnstone’s “newspaper” style site is one of the most innovative designs in the entire league. It’s brilliantly thought through and a great example of how to do things differently. Making the site look good and easy to use has clearly been a priority.
Hamilton also deserve praise for innovation at www.acciesfc.co.uk Although I wonder if the down to earth domain name and unusual look of the page might make some people wonder if it’s a very professional fan page rather than the official club site. But it’s sleek and minimalist and very easy on the eye and if it could be livened up a bit with some social media it would be right up among the best sites.
Aberdeen have a particularly strong “blogs” section with some excellent writing. It’s buried away in a sub menu and I reckon if they made it more prominent and tied it in with social media they could get some great comments and debates going and people sharing them throughout the wider internet.
Hibs promise a competition section “coming soon” and helpfully type out full quotes from managers and players in news stories. This means fans who don’t want to pay for the premium video subscription content can still at least read exactly what was said.
Could Do Better
Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Kilmarnock and Dundee United all suffer from the same problem – design limitations on the main site.
I found the pages looking dated and difficult to navigate around. This took away from some good content. All 3 had strong match reports with high quality action pictures from the games.
Dundee United also have a superb weekly e-newsletter which fans can sign up to. It’s brilliantly put together but if you don’t know it exists it’s hard to find it on the main page. It has a box linking to it but I’m not sure tangerine and black are the easiest colours to read on a computer. However, anyone considering an on-line newsletter would get some great inspiration from the way they do it at Tannadice.
Killie and Caley need to find a way to get the action from their games transferred to their home pages. Every match report has great pictures within it but the site design needs to adapt so this hits the viewer in the face when the page loads.
Of course fans want results on the pitch rather than fancy websites and perhaps it’s no co-incidence that these clubs are higher up the SPL table than some of their rivals with better websites. Maybe they’re deliberately putting a bigger slice of the budget towards the team itself.
If that’s the case all the more reason to invest in social media. Even after investing some money in training and time to manage the page it’ll still be cheaper than paying for a re-built site and the way the web’s going it could end up much more effective.
Killie in particular have a thriving unofficial Facebook page where 2,711 fans post news articles, make comments and share pictures and memories. They’re missing out by not even linking to it from their main page.
The NS Design door is very much open to any SPL club (or any other organisation or individual) who’d like to discuss how to improve their on-line presence through a better website, or improved social media strategy.
Gary and the team would be delighted to chat with you.
But here are my free, handy hints to each SPL club on things they could do straight away to improve their on-line league position…
Rangers www.rangers.co.uk – get an official Facebook page, moderate it and link to it from your main site.
Celtic www.celticfc.net – get on Twitter and use that big Facebook community you’ve built up to enhance your content with official blogs and podcasts.
Hearts www.heartsfc.co.uk – cut back a bit on the commercial content and give the good stuff room to breathe.
Kilmarnock www.kilmarnockfc.co.uk – some action pictures on the front page and consider giving that unofficial Facebook page some official recognition – or at least a link.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle www.ictfc.co.uk – same as Kilmarnock and think about explaining what fans get when they sign up to the premium subscription service. At the moment there’s no explanation until after I click “Register”.
Motherwell www.motherwellfc.co.uk – very good as it is but ask that new manager if he’ll do a blog!
Dundee United www.dundeeunitedfc.co.uk – make the e-newsletter stand out on the front page of the site. It’s excellent but too hard to find.
St Johnstone www.perthstjohnstonefc.co.uk – Top marks on a great layout but make the audio clips in the news articles more prominent and consider reaching out to the 2 thousand or so fans on the unofficial Facebook page.
Aberdeen www.afc.co.uk – Do more to promote your blogs. There’s some very high quality writing there and it’s buried too deep in the site.
St Mirren www.saintmirren.net – With Motherwell, the only other club on Facebook and Twitter but the Buddies need to realise it’s a 2 way street! Don’t just use social media to issue news stories and alerts, think about engaging with the fans and talking back to them. Follow some people on Twitter and try to give it some character and personality.
Hibs www.hibernianfc.co.uk – Get the fans more involved and think about social media and more interesting content.
Hamilton www.acciesfc.co.uk – you’re much higher up the on-line league than the SPL table! Could you integrate the high quality pictures into the match reports rather than keeping them separate? And dip your toe into the social media water!
Now, play the video clip for my closing thoughts…
Thanks for reading and as ever, I invite you to post your comments below. It’s all about opinions so have YOUR say now! Have I been too harsh on your favourite team? Maybe there’s another football club or sporting organisation doing great things on-line that you want to highlight. How do you feel about clubs keeping their best content back and making fans PAY for it?