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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Social Media: Twitter, Football and the Players

This season I have been granted the honour of writing a piece on social media for each Bristol City matchday programme (@bcfc_redalert). For those City fans unable to get to the games, or for football fans in general browsing this site, I'll be publishing each article on here a few days after the match. The article will sometimes be City-specific, other times not, so keep coming back and checking what's new.

For this first article, from the programme for the disappointing opening
day defeat to Ipswich, I run the rule over at the extraordinary impact of social media, and in particular Twitter, on the game.

When you bear in mind Twitter only came into being five years ago, its growth has been phenomenal. The way it is used, sometimes abused and is revolutionising communication is fascinating and scary in equal measure. The world of @’s and #’s may seem bewildering but it is rapidly turning into the news source of choice for many, relying on individuals, journalists and official news ‘tweeters’ to get a broader, more current view. PR agencies used to judge success on column inches in newspapers; now many view ‘Trending’ (where a certain word/phrase is amongst the most ‘tweeted’) as the ultimate success.

Most of you will be aware of Twitter from the incredible furore surrounding the fact that so many people had unveiled Ryan Giggs as the “un-named Premier League footballer” whilst the press and media remained handcuffed. Was there any real issue there other than the tabloids being denied their big exclusive?

This summer has seen a range of football-related activity on Twitter, from the relatively inane when Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) confirmed to his followers he’d had a hair transplant with a photo, to Sergio Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) becoming the first high-profile footballer to confirm his transfer before the official club statements. Yeovil also signed a player based on an initial recommendation from one of manager Terry Skiverton's (@terryskiverton) followers, naturally causing it to be labelled the first ‘Twansfer’. [thanks to @benbarrett10]

Roooney's hair transplant was communicated via Twitter

Whether you care about Rooney’s barnet or not, and admittedly many don’t, the fact that he was able to choose to immediately communicate photos meant the tabloids, whom had no doubt been gearing up for days of ‘exclusive’ aerial shots, had nothing to chew on and the story was quickly extinguished. Surely that’s a good thing for everyone bar the bored hack?

It has seen its low points too. Spats can become very public, very quickly. Abuse of individuals horrendous. To see some of the vitriol handed out to the likes of John Hartson (@johnhartson10) makes you wonder what’s gone wrong with the world. Many have dabbled, poked their toe in the water but been immediately horrified by the abuse received. The whole point of Twitter – to be entirely open to the world – means any numbskull, with any view, can say what they want, to whoever they want. Most people have Apps on their smartphones so whether you’re in work or at home, in the pub or on the train, you can tweet anywhere, anytime. Rumours can spread like wildfire, with many untrue and potentially harmful.

However, the positives surely greatly outweigh the negatives, and you can easily interact with fans of your club and other clubs, some players, the odd manager and at least two Chairmen. There are national football journalists worth following, and the club-specific media teams are a fan’s dream as you can often get questions answered and find out what’s happening behind the scenes. Most importantly, you can instantly find out the latest news on anything you want.

Official club websites and 24-hour news channels have already usurped the written press, but nothing beats the speed of Twitter in 2011. Sky Sports News has spent years being at the forefront of announcing major breaking news – not any more. Twitter almost universally beats it to the post with the big stories if you follow the right people, and that’s a big part of its success.

The Exiled Robin
Follow me on Twitter at @cider1977

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