Colin Kelly’s Blog: SPL football clubs and what they do on-line.

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?

Excellent
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.

Good
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.

Action points!
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.ukGet the fans more involved and think about social media and more interesting content.

Hamilton www.acciesfc.co.ukyou’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?
 

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7 Responses to “Colin Kelly’s Blog: SPL football clubs and what they do on-line.”

  1. Gary

    Colin.. given you’ve focussed on just the SPL teams, I’ll let you off for not mentioning NSDesign’s Greenock Morton site – http://www.gmfc.net – arguably the best of the buch 😉

    One thing that does massively annoy me (and many others) when it comes to web design – is “splash screens”. The Football clubs are the worst offenders – with pretty much all of them forcing site visitors to view some sort of big bold in your face advert, before actually just taking me to the content that I want to read… Of course I realise the financial reasons for doing it (most advertise tickets, or merchandise etc), but it really is one of the things that annoy “users” the most…

  2. Tom

    Hi Colin

    Thanks for the post. I’m beginning to look into this over on http://www.scottishfootballblog.co.uk so it’s useful to see your views. Interesting to compare your thoughts with the feedback I’ve received from supporters so far which doesn’t suggest that they feel any of the clubs are really succeeding online.

    As Gary says I suspect that some SPL clubs could maybe learn from the lower leagues and amateur/junior clubs. Hopefully I can answer when I start to look at this in a bit more depth.

    One interesting point: you suggest that Hibs use social media more. This has been suggested by fans but the answer always comes back that they don’t have the resources to moderate and Facebook, Twitter etc would be open to abuse. Now, it might just be that Hibs are overly sensitive to interaction at the moment but it also suggests that clubs are still scared to use what could be hugely effective ways of connecting with their support.

    Thanks for the post and I’ll comment again when I get more posts up on the issue myself.

  3. Colin Kelly

    Gary I should have mentioned – credit to Hibs for the smartest splash page. It’s bold and minimalist. some of the others pack way too much on there and come across as desperate. Well done Hamilton for not having one at all and being less obsessed with selling stuff.

  4. admin

    Tom – I agree – and think that Hibs biggest fear is not the lack of resource to manage it, but the fear of opening themselves up to criticism etc in the first place. This is a concern to any business on social media, but can be planned and managed correctly. They should come to one of our workshops!

  5. Colin Kelly

    Glad you’re going to do more work on this Tom. It’s a big area and as someone who’s not particularly passionate about any of the clubs as a supporter it was interesting to really look at who’s doing what. I would say criticising a team is something you’re entitled to do as a fan and clubs shouldn’t fear it. Someone crossing the line and posting abuse rather than criticism on Facebook risks being banned from the entire site, not just the club’s page and even with the resource of moderating it I would be certain the pros would out weight the cons for any club, not just Hibs.

  6. Steven Grant

    Worth pointing out that – IMHO of course – Man City http://www.mcfc.co.uk has the best football website

    Not much of a fan of the SPL sites, Motherwell is better than both Rangers and Celtic websites – again IMHO.

  7. Alan Brown

    Just to say that Stuart McCall now sends an e-mail after each game which assesses the performance, things to work on and looks ahead to the next match. It’s been great for building a link between club and fans and hopefully more teams follow suit. Anyone who signs up recieves it and he says he also reads all and responds to many of the replies he recieves.

    It began around the time this blog was posted, so who knows maybe it had in a hand in it happening. Cheers