"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Friday, 27 April 2012

What's Twitter all about? By the #bristolcitytwitterfamily

My final article from Bristol City's matchday programme, Red Alert for the 2011-2012 season, from the home game against Barnsley, on April 21st, that sealed our safety

Having spent all season telling you all my views on social media, and in particular Twitter, I thought I’d hand this final page over to some of the #bristolcitytwitterfamily to tell you what they think.  I asked five questions and got nearly a hundred replies, thanks to all those that took the time and apologies if you haven’t had a mention.

1)      What’s the best thing about Twitter?

One main themes came through on this one with the interaction with other City fans and fans of other clubs suggested by @Barnzy_BCFC, @kpcider, @AG_Gouldie, @JackCox83 and @Saxokid amongst others.

The other key mentions included the speed of news breaking (@McBCFC) whilst two birds of a feather (@Cucumber_Kid_71 & @Escobaraloplopp) said they loved the ability to tweet whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to. 

2)      Worst thing about Twitter
Unsurprisingly for anyone who uses the micro-blogging site there were two answers that dominated all others here.  One of which, the ease for a small minority of idiots to abuse players, I’ve covered on this page during the season.  Be it racial, sickening comments about family/children or just plain stinging over-criticism it appears to annoy the majority more than anything else.

The second major theme, as with seemingly all online activity, was spam accounts.  Those that hack in to act as you and send messages out to everyone you follow about health pills or similar.

@Cucumber_Kid_71 suggested a notable and valid exception which was the extensive proliferation of trends to do with either Justin Bieber or One Direction – sadly barely a day goes by without an utterly pointless trend about one of them breaking a fingernail or something equally valueless and uninteresting.

3)      Who at City would you most want to see on Twitter?
Four main answers for this one with David James suggested by #bristolcitytwitterfamily founder @PeterMoth1 and ever-present ardent fan @BrizzleChris amongst others, former manager and club-hero Brian Tinnion was thrown in by @Stu_Radnedge whilst club captain Louis Carey got plenty of votes – even one from the continent from @Ralphinfrance.

The most popular choice however was Albert Adomah, with @Bennkanobi, @NaomiLouisee and @Natchplease amongst many voters for our favourite Uncle!

4)      Favourite City-related follow
An overwhelming win on this one for in-form striker @JonStead9 with @JessAshton34xxx leading the charge for a player who more than any other shows his passion and commitment to the club in this social whirlpool, although the detailed insight into the club offered by Adam Baker (@bean_head) was put forward by a few, including @Molls28 & @HalRoberts87.

It was a sign of the good fan’s spirit online that a few chose to mention other City fans, including @Brizzlechris who singled out the other Twitter family co-founder @Melissaspencerx, whilst @Cucumber_Kid_71 & @joes85 also got recommendations

5)      Favourite non City-related follow
This question yielded the broadest range of responses but being totally honest, I didn’t expect an ex-Gashead to feature in these votes but ex-Rovers star and king of the local radio phone-in @Geoff20Man got a couple of votes here from @kpcider & @jessashton34xxx.  Gary Lineker, Chris Kamara, Rio Ferdinand and Joey Barton all got votes, as did some top football writers, @the72football, @iainmackintosh, @footballramble, @GuillemBalague.

Award for top pick of the day though has to go to @Barnzy_BCFC for his selection of @Cynegeticus, a Brazilian and Latin American football expert, proving – if more proof were needed – that you truly can adapt Twitter to use it however you want!

I hope you’ve found this page an interesting read this season and that I’ve enlightened some of you in terms of what can be found online.  It’s not going to be for everyone, nothing ever is, but if you enjoy interacting with other fans, reading great writing about football (or any other topic) or just simply spying on what the stars are up to, then give Twitter a whirl.  The more the merrier!

Follow me on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin

Q&A with Bristol City's Head of Media

For the penultimate On the Social of the season - for the West Ham game on April 17th - I welcomed Bristol City's Head of Media, Adam Baker (@Bean_Head), to the pages.  As one of the club’s key communicators the ever-growing role of social media has a constant impact on how the media team goes about their job, so I found out more:

How has the ever-growing influence of Twitter affected the job of the media team?
I think similarly to the times when internet forums came on the scene, it’s something we have to be aware of and monitor as best we can. That doesn’t mean sitting on Twitter 24/7, but equally if something’s happening it needs covering. Twitter is a great source of news, and therefore is somebody is reporting something about the club then it’s our job to be alert to that.  It’s often on Twitter where stories are broken these days, ahead of papers and websites.

Could (and should) the club be doing more to embrace this new world?
I think we were slow starters in social media terms, both on Twitter and Facebook, and it takes time to build things up. We’re always looking at new ways to engage with fans and social media is essential as part of that. We’re beginning to bring a more behind-the-scenes kind of look at the club via Twitter recently, and part of our season ticket campaign for 2012/13 is driven by comments (memories) posted by supporters on our Facebook page.

In your experience, how do you think City rank against other clubs in terms of using this approach?
I think as staff we’re very proactive on it. A large proportion of the club’s off-field staff are on Twitter and Facebook, and several players too. Whilst in years gone by fans will have waited for SMS alerts or a website posting to confirm/break news, I believe now a tweet or Facebook post is just as eagerly waited and recognised. Personally I think we interact well, but I’d welcome feedback.

Have you had formal media/social training and do you think anyone needs it?
Not as such but to be honest it’s a learning curve for everyone in a evolving industry (social media). We have a social media policy at the club which all staff members – including players – must adhere and that is in place to ensure the club isn’t harmed in any way.

What's the best thing about Twitter in your view?
The interaction and speed at which news travels because of it. When it comes to major breaking news, there’s nothing really to rival it.

There are other clubs whose Chairman or Chief Executive use Twitter extensively, answering fans questions or commenting on matches, performances and even referee performances!  Is this something you discuss with the likes of Colin or Guy in terms of getting them (more) involved?
Guy is on Twitter (@GuyRPrice) and does take a very keen watching brief. Whether he wants to dip his toe into the water more is a question for him, but given the busy nature of his job I think it would be difficult. With regards to Colin, I’d say it’s unlikely!

There are an increasing number of footballers on Twitter, not without controversy.  Do you think they will still be allowed to tweet in two or three years?
Yes I do. As long as players understand a tweet is, in effect, the same as answering a question to a journalist then it’s ok in my view. The simple rule is, if you wouldn’t say it to a newspaper journalist or live on Sky Sports, don’t tweet it! That’s why we have a social media policy in place. But everyone deserves freedom of speech – within reason!

Who are your favourite football-related follows, inside & outside of the club?
I enjoy following the national journalists, plus the likes of Sky Sports and BBC for breaking news. For clear passion, @JonStead9 is a firm favourite with supporters and I understand why. I also enjoy our design manager @Ed_Furniss’ eclectic collection of tweets.

Can City fans expect anything new and exciting on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or any other new social media site?
We’ll certainly be sitting down in the summer to see if there are areas we can improve. I’m sure there are and I’d welcome any feedback.

And finally, have you ever been tempted to reply when someone tweets you criticising the players, the manager or asking for inside information on transfers?  I do wonder whether people actually expect a response or not!
Ha ha! Well I try and respond to all reasonable questions and queries wherever possible. Clearly I’m not going to give top secrets away or slate people. There aren’t too many abusive tweets, honest!

#fanpowerstadium #bristolcity

My article from Bristol City's matchday programme, Red Alert:
Coventry, Easter Monday, April 9th

Most Bristol City fans are probably now aware of the Fanpowerpromotion the Football League sponsors nPower are running, having featured regularly in the programme and on the club’s website.  What may have passed many by, as with many competitions these days, is that the only way in you can actually help is by signing up via Facebook.

Essentially they are using the new social media channels to give them cheap information about potential new customers – let’s face it, they wouldn’t be spending money on prize-money or promoting it if there wasn’t something in it for them, and there are benefits galore in using these new channels.

For sponsors, the opportunity to utilise their involvement with a competition such as the Football League which is mass-supported, has substantially improved in the past few years.  Think back 15 years – if an event was sponsored, how could that company actually use that status?  They had logos plastered all over the various merchandise, at key angles of television around the event and all that comes with it such as press conferences.  On top of that they probably spent many millions of pounds advertising their involvement through other channels, all building the kind of brand awareness levels only large-scale (and large-cost) advertising used to be able to create.

They still have these options of course, but with incentives like the Fanpower competition, nPower now have the ability to gather key information about potential customers so they can target offers effectively.  As with all of these things there is the ability for individuals to opt-out but by offering the chance to win money in a prize draw the promoter is making the assumption that many will leave that box unticked.

The key difference with using social media is two-fold.  Back in the days of using postal coupons for this sort of thing it was very much a 1-on-1 relationship.  The club might have had a coupon in the programme, only visible by a few thousand people, which some fans would have cut out and posted off and that was that – at some point you may have received a phone call or a letter with an offer but it was limited.

Now, by using Facebook and Twitter, nPower get hundreds of thousands of users to promote their message for free.  By structuring the competition in such a way that it needs momentum and interactive encouragement they can get football fans – amongst the passionate about any topic in the land – doing their advertising for them.  Once you’re signed up, ‘Mentions’ on Facebook or Twitter (using #fanpowerstadium) collect points and it’s a race against the other clubs.  Therefore it’s in my interest, your interest and the club’s interest to get as many people as possibly sharing activity and retweeting – each mention undoubtedly intriguing a handful of your friends and followers just enough that within a few clicks they’re suddenly signed up too.

Secondly it’s just so much easier.  A single click from the club’s website, a handful of personal details and that’s that.  The cost is minimal and they’ve made it a prize worth winning - one the fans would feel proud of winning for their club, so it’s worth spending a few seconds signing up.

Having said all of that, this isn’t the easiest of competitions to get your head around.  There’s the ‘Grab a Seat’, check-ins at the stadium, mentions on Facebook, mentions on Twitter…it’s actually difficult to keep track and remember what you can and can’t do to help gain points.  It also runs for more than two months, meaning winning is likely to be attritional rather than exciting – a handful of campaigners will probably be needed to keep momentum up and remind people they should keep gaining points, day in, day out.  This goes against many of the instant and spontaneous principles of social media interaction where bizarre topics trend for a few hours then disappear, or random videos ‘go viral’ and are seen by millions within just a couple of days.

Still, it would be worth winning, wouldn’t it?  To play your part and help City towards the £30,000 prize then please sign up via Facebook HERE.  Let’s win something this season! #fanpowerstadium

Follow me on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin

Sunday, 22 April 2012

We are Staying Up! So what next...

So that’s that.  The celebrations on the pitch at Ashton Gate were perhaps overdoing things but it was a marked measure of just how tough a season this has been and just how close Bristol City had come to being relegated back to League One.

The most pertinent moment came when the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner – created for that gloriously sunny afternoon against Rotherham five years ago when David Noble and Alex Russell made themselves City heroes for life – was unfurled in the centre of the Dolman Stand.  The years spent trying and failing to get out of the third tier had come sharply back into focus in the past few months as the spectre of relegation loomed and today was all about shutting that door.

Whereas that day of celebration in early May was about jubilation and excitement, today was all about relief and reprieve.  For one more season at least the away trips will be to Elland Road, Molineux and the City Ground rather than Bury, Hartlepool and Shrewsbury.

The faces of the players when they came out for their lap of honour said it all.  There were no jigs, no pumping fists and few broad smiles.  The tone was more of an embarrassed nature, all of them acutely aware that the applause for them was down to their efforts and hard work in the last seven games rather than the corresponding number of months.  They’d got us into that position, and fortunately they’d managed to scramble us out of it.  There was plenty of happiness, of course, at a job eventually well done, but it was more a set of rueful grins than beams of exultation.  Jon Stead’s face at the end and his interview on the Football League Show told the story – relief and delighted with the support the team had received, but a touch bewildered at just how celebratory the fans had been.

Jon Stead was crucial in City's survival

So what went so wrong?  An article I wrote for The 72 Football upon Derek McInnes’ appointment in October was well-received and dealt with many of the underlying issues at the club, whilst an article from Andy Stockhausen in the Evening Post recently was probably the most insightful piece in that paper for many a year and offered similar views.

Many of the issues dealt with are still present and undoubtedly affected the performances this season.  Essentially results have been achieved in two runs of form, the first one following the appointment of McInnes which took us from the basement to a position in mid-table, and then at the most crucial stage, just as relegation fears were once again at a peak.  Aside from that there have been some truly dreadful runs of results and performances.

The underlying soft belly was exposed to the maximum during the bleak late-winter when everyone from Crawley to Brighton to Blackpool picked City apart at will.  Then almost as suddenly as the inept performances began, the general attitude seemed to once again step up a few levels.

Stead re-establishing himself in the starting line-up was probably the key point in the season.  His tremendous workrate, determination and willingness to put his body on the line seemed to spread throughout the team and that’s what earned him the Player of the Season award from the supporters – he showed he cared when it looked like so many others didn’t.  The fact that he won the award despite having been on the pitch for less than six hours up until February 25th when 32 games had already been chalked up says all that needs to be said about the rest of the side.

Even though Louis Carey and Jamie McAllister were only reunited for a couple of matches, it seemed to boost the ability of the back four – especially alongside loanee Stephen MacManus – to hold out under pressure as their never-say-die attitude inflicted itself upon the rest of the team.  Dean Gerken’s arrival for David James – who has surely played his last game at Ashton Gate – also played a part whilst the signing of Andre Amougou seemed to be the moment that, looking back, sealed the deal.

Andre Amougou added the steel City required at the back

His uncompromising style was exactly what was needed and added attributes to the back line not seen since the days of Shaun Taylor.  His arrival seemed to lift Louis Carey for one final push and if ever an image should sum up the legendary captain’s time at City it was his interview on Sky Sports with one eye virtually shut, a huge swelling and blood pouring down his face.

It would be easy to forget in the celebrations that the recent key games against West Ham and Coventry, City actually went behind.  Had this happened back in September, or even February, there would have been little chance of the side having enough about them to get back into the match and get a result.  The team that has played the last seven matches has a different feel about it.

It should also be noted that City have only actually overcome eight sides this season.  Doubles over four (to date) have propelled the club clear of danger but more than two-thirds of next year’s Championship line-up will have few recent memories causing them to fear the fixture.

A strange element of the season has been the results against the top sides.  A double over Southampton still feels like a dream whilst West Ham were unable to defeat us over 180 minutes.  Champions Reading were made to look as poor as any side for 70 minutes back in September, Birmingham required all their battling qualities to not succumb to defeat at St.Andrew’s recently and we scored both of Cardiff’s goals in their win in the Severnside derby.

Focus on these games and there is hope.  However there are too many other games and performances in mind that deflate any over-ambitious thoughts soon enough.

This summer will prove as crucial as any in City’s recent history if a similar struggle is to be avoided next time around.  The squad is woefully lacking in creativity and ability to get goals although the back of the net has at least been rippled more often in recent weeks.  A good team goal today was followed by a soft-looking penalty, Cole Skuse is not going to knock a left-footer from 30-yards through an England goalkeeper very often and we certainly can’t rely on the sorts of scrambled, pinball wizard style and deflected goals that went a long way to sealing our safety against Coventry.

Of course teams are going to score some fortunate goals during a season, but they should be nice bonuses rather than relied upon and it has to be said City have received a generous amount of luck during the last seven, unbeaten matches.  It also should be noted that finally, perhaps for the first time in a couple of years, the sheer hard work, effort and bloody-mindedness of the players went some way to earning these strokes of fortune.  Players have to get in position to shoot to get deflections or to force the keeper into an error, and the attacking players generally have to be threatening with the ball in the penalty area to win the chance to beat the keeper from 12 yards.  Much ridicule and jest is made of the number of penalties Manchester United win at Old Trafford, but they generally win such a volume because they spend so much time inside the opposition’s area.

The close season will see the most dramatic overhaul of the squad Ashton Gate has ever seen, with nearly 20 players out of contract.  Of the loan signings I can’t see McInnes wanting to sign anyone other than Amougou for the long-term but he may be too expensive or snapped up by a rival.  His contribution to our survival will not have gone unnoticed by the likes of Leeds and Ipswich who have both conceded too many goals this season.  Decisions will need to be made on a number of other high earners and it’s not only those out of contract that may be heading for the exit, with Kilkenny and Pitman potentially most at risk of not being a part of the tough Scotsman’s plans next time out.

However, surely there is a part of McInnes’ mind wary of stripping too much of the squad away and having to start totally afresh in August – our friends from across the city did much the same 12 months ago and suffered a dreadful start whilst trying to bond the new colleagues together.

A new goalkeeper is a must, however well Gerken has played in the past few weeks and a left-back remains a priority at the back.  If Amougou can be signed then alongside Fontaine and Wilson there’s a solid base.  Up-front there remains a need for a pacy striker with an eye for goal – Stead will contribute but it’s his all-round play that makes him such a valuable asset.  Midfield needs the most attention however.  Cisse, Skuse and Elliott are all too similar and if there’s a genuine push to become more creative only one can play regularly.  Kilkenny can be a real asset but needs the rest of the midfield built around him and spends too much time moaning at referees and his teammates.  Pearson has done a reasonable job on the left side but whether there’s a spot for him in a true four-man midfield is still up for debate.  Adomah has had a disappointing second half to the season and someone needs to find his mojo again and reignite the spark in our most attacking and threatening asset.

'Del' and 'Doc' face an even greater challenge next time around

It will be the biggest test for McInnes so far, bigger than the last few weeks.  In Amougou (hopefully), Fontaine, Cisse and Stead he at least has a solid spine to build around and that could prove vital.

He has never tried to hide behind excuses but he has had to work with what he had this time around, the high volume of loan signings shining his lack of belief in the existing squad like a beacon.  With so many able to leave this summer he has a unique opportunity to stamp his mark on the squad and get the type of player in that he wants.  Managers rarely get a second chance these days so if the wrong decisions are made then he’ll be totally accountable.  His signings to date have been mixed but Amougou has probably tipped him into credit.  He and Pearson in particular have added value, whilst Ricky Foster has established himself in the side.  Chris Wood brought little that Jon Stead couldn’t already provide whilst Davis, Ephraim and Keinan have played peripheral roles.

Finally a few words on the previous, oft-maligned, management.  Without offering the suggestion that he was the right man for the job, it should be noted that much of the criticism of Keith Millen and the reasons for his failure was down to his “inexperience”, and the board were accused of taking the cheap option by appointing from within.  Indeed, the latter accusation has been mooted by some of the less patient fanbase about the current boss, with many seemingly still bewildered as to why David Jones or Billy Davies didn’t become manager of an in-fighting, bottom of the league side and some still insisting that McInnes is out of his depth.

I have little doubt some Reading fans were saying the same about Brian McDermott.

Indeed, many of those who regularly attended Old Trafford in the late-eighties were saying much the same about their Scottish import.

Generalisations and sweeping statements are totally pointless and unfounded.  The background is a factor but would you rather have had Dave Jones or Brian McDermott as the manager three seasons ago?  Would you have picked Alex Ferguson over, perhaps, George Graham if you had the chance to go back 25 years?  No decision can guarantee success and time must be allowed for anyone to make their mark.

Also to note, despite wholly accurate suggestions that the recent recruitment policy has been sporadic and failed to address certain key areas, Jon Stead and Yannick Bolaise – both Millen signings, joined last year’s winners Albert Adomah (Coppell’s) and Steven Caulker – another gem unearthed by Millen, via Yeovil – in collecting the top player awards.  Without knowing the details, the other key Coppell signing – Kalifa Cisse – must have been pressing Stead for the honours this time around.

Whilst it’s easy to think of David James and Nicky Hunt, of Damion Stewart and of failing to sign a decent left-back – both Millen and Coppell have played their own part in the successes, as well as the failures, of the last two seasons.

However the club is now under McInnes’ control and he will determine much of the future.  Part one of his role is very much ‘mission accomplished’.  Bottom of the league and adrift when he arrived, I noted at the time that 21st position would be grabbed with glee by every single supporter.  Portsmouth’s financial woes may have aided the situation but to even be here is testament to the change in approach brought about by ‘Del’ and ‘Doc’.

Part two is to revamp, helping to address the £30m losses in due course, but re-establishing City amongst the middling clubs in this league.

From there, who knows, but for now it just feels so good to be able to shout from the roof-tops “We are Staying Up!”

Follow me on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Gone for a Burton; is the new NFC key to the future?

The Exiled Robin takes a different direction with this post from Lee Molland (@Molls28), a Bristol City fan who has progressed from coaching locally to his current role as a scout for the Bristol City Academy.  He has kindly offered this insightful view on St. George's Park, the  FA's soon to be finished state-of-the-art national football centre at Burton-on-Trent, and the impact it might have on England's finest young footballers.

Football at grass roots level needs to be focused on playing and enjoying the game. As the standard of player progresses, the coaching can progress. Results should never be driven into the kids and the competitive side of the game should only come in at adult level. Children will only learn and become better when they have lots of touches of the ball in EVERY session.
We need children to be able to play without fear of losing, where positional sense and tactics are not as important as simply touching the ball with your feet. Make a mistake but learn from it, nothing wrong with that - When I coach football for 5-11 year olds, this is fundamental to their learning and the FA are finally getting more young coaches to employ these same methods.
This change in attitude is just the first step. It is important to stop children from falling out of love with the game because of the pressure to be successful and get a result, which in the past has been put on them from a young age. This seems to trickle down to grass roots level right from the tabloid media who scrutinise and place importance on every success and failure, but this change in ideology in conjunction with St George's Park, the FA’s new national football centre, will alleviate so many problems for our national side going forward.
Based in Burton-on-Trent, the centre will be home to all 24 England teams, including all the Men’s and Women’s teams, the Disability sides, Youth and Futsal. But how will St George's Park help? Well, over the past few years the FA has visited and consulted with those at the helm of highly acclaimed national football centres including those in Spain, France and Holland and the academies for club sides like Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. They have taken on board their philosophy and training methods while learning from their successes and although it’s taken the FA a long time, they have finally caught up. Our new University of Football will hopefully inspire young players onto greater training and performances.
The facilities will be second to none with full medical and sports science centres, and with full indoor and outdoor pitches it will become almost impossible for football in this country not to progress, especially considering that young English footballers will be based at the centre and coached together regularly. Also, our young players will no doubt come into regular contact with the senior players and management - can you imagine the boost that would give players?
Furthermore, St George's Park will become the venue where coaches get coached. The game of football has changed to a slower approach and fast counter attacking game and we are beginning to realise this, changing the way our coaches are educated from the grass roots up. The FA has made the steps to closing the gap on Europe’s elite, and over time, I believe we will see the rewards with articulate but winning football.

Thanks to The Basis Mag for allowing me to reproduce this article.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Man City leading the Social Media charge

My latest article from Bristol City matchday programme Red Alert, taken from the Derby County game on March 31st:

Manchester City’s money-chucking approach to gain success on the pitch causes considerable consternation but there is a long-term plan in place off-the-pitch as well.  Away from impressive plans around new training facilities and holding open evenings to explain their accounts, the online team has also been making great strides.

The club has understood that whilst they can email fans or give away flyers with hot dogs, they will only ever reach a proportion of supporters via those methods.  Every other week 50,000 fans turn up at the Etihad Stadium, so what have Man City done?  They’ve turned over space on giant screens to fans tweeting about the game, about the club, about their day out – or about life in general.  Anyone tweeting using the hashtag #Blueview can find their tweet (and username) suddenly highlighted to all of their fellow supporters.  Bringing live social media interaction is just the latest step following setting up of free Wi-Fi within the stadium’s grounds and extensive advertising of their online presence.

They’re actively advertising their presence in the world of social media and encouraging droves of fans to sign up and follow – all generating better ways of communicating.

They’ve followed this up by playing on their most marketable and headline-generating current asset, Mario Balotelli.  By simply tagging themselves in an interactive photo including avatars of some top players, fans could win a signed shirt and a personalised video message from Balotelli himself.  Sean Walsh, a leading expert from Digital Football, had this view of this initiative:
“a fantastic idea that has all the ingredients of a successful Social campaign – an engaging piece of content, audience participation (finding both yourself and the fan favourites in the crowd) and a fabulous motive”

Richard Ayres, the grandly titled “Digital Playmaker” of the club claims that he doesn’t see the Blues as a football club but a “global entertainment brand”.  It may sound crass and disrespectful but when one takes a look at his task and realises he’s got more than 166 non-playing hours each week to fill with interaction and entertainment to keep people communicating with the club, you can understand the perspective.

Whilst you could argue they don’t need it, these sorts of activities bring in no direct revenue for the richest club in the world.  Many clubs now have some sort of SMS interaction but will often charge for the privilege.  This is different.  As City’s Commercial Director Kevin Smith alluded to in the recent interview on this page, if clubs (or indeed any business) see these new routes of communication as revenue-generation channels then they’re likely to be disappointed.  Fans use social media because it is free, because it’s instant and because they don’t have to subscribe or commit to anything.

However, by becoming more linked with everything going at behind the doors of your club, by becoming more engaged on a one-to-one basis, the expectation is that fans will feel more a part of the club than ever and this will directly lead to more tickets and merchandise being sold, not directly attributable to social media but it remains undoubtedly critical.

Ayres’ view is simple and underlines the indirect positive impact that can be gained in one of so many potential methods.
Our strategy is to talk regularly with the fans…to get ideas from them. This exchange with the fans is very important. It also gives fans the feeling to be involved. We show prototypes and get feedback. It makes us safer and it gives us a better sense regarding our product development activities.”

Man City’s official account saw growth in the number of Twitter followers of 20% in January alone, a staggering amount for an established channel, even by the micro-blogging site’s remarkable growth standards, and proves that there is plenty of catching up for the other 91 clubs to do if they’re going to try and keep pace off the pitch, let alone on it, with the new best club in the land* (* - possibly).

Thanks to www.digital-football.com for allowing reproduction of parts of this article.  Visit them for the best inside view on football’s interaction with social media.

Follow me on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin

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