Unlike their neighbours in Manchester, who seem to think social media is the work of Satan himself, Manchester City have made an extremely impressive marketing push via their official accounts on Twitter and Facebook — at least by Premier League standards. They have 11,758 in the former and 78,549 fans on the latter.
Importantly, that presence has grown thanks to some creative work, including letting fans decide on the playlist before the game via a Facebook discussion (a surprising lack of Mick Hucknall on there). Indeed, their online presence as a whole is unparalleled, with the best website design in the Premier League.
An interview on UK Sports Network with Chris Nield, Social Media Executive at Manchester City, is well worth reading for some of the details on how City see the benefits of their investment in social media, and how they’ve rolled it out.
Nield sensibly asserts that this investment in connecting people via social media cannot easily be measured in the short-term for Return On Investment.
How do you measure R.O.I of your social media activities?
The simplest way we measure the ROI of our social media activities is by tracking the rate of growth of members to our social networks (number of fans on the club’s Facebook page, followers on Twitter and members of our Flickr group) however we regularly review analytics, link tracking and interactions using various tools in order to gauge its real value. Unlike other large organisations, I’m of the opinion that social media is not simply a numbers game. Every supporter who has decided to embrace what we’re on these networks has a voice that we must listen and respond to in order for us to be properly utilizing the power and potential of social media.
Yet it’s a little surprising to see other clubs not following suit, and the suggestion from Nield is that most are simply too afraid of platforms they cannot clamp complete control on.
Why do you feel many Premier League clubs have been slow to pick up on social media?
I think a lot of that is down to how the club perceives itself within the footballing world. Some clubs may see themselves simply as a brand that exists separately from the day to day lives of their supporters and because there are no real direct revenue stream, do not see the value of social media. For various reasons, others may feel that social media is not a worthwhile endeavour for them and somewhat of a minefield that is best steered clear of. At City we’re proud of the way that the club is able to reach out to supporters and we’re proud of the way the fans have reacted and embraced what we’re trying to do. We’re also keen to ensure that the club remains at the forefront of new developments in the field of social media whilst it is imperative that the club’s soul, the very reason why people fall in love with Manchester City, is retained.
Of course, all this stems back to the extraordinary investment made in the club since the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group. City can afford to do this, and at the end of the day, it’s about branding for them too. It’s all part of an extremely expensive campaign to make City as one of the world’s leading club’s and buy instant success.
But it’s one that they do seem to understand takes some smart use of social media to keep connecting to the community of City fans online, and many other clubs around the world could learn from it.