How important is social media to football?

Many people of the world today, possibly most of us, are involved in social media in some way. Social media has taken over the world, with only a handful of countries missing out. This new craze has given topics that have happened around the world the chance to escalate and get a lot more publicity. Social media gives the public the chance to talk about the trending stories around the world, ranging from football matches or something a lot more serious such as wars in other countries.

It is hard to deny social media its success because of the amazing number of people who have signed up to it which means that in football, social media has particularly taken off. Football being the most popular sport in the world by far at the moment means the million and millions of fans that each club has, will continue to talk about their beloved teams on social media, boosting the popularity of the team and the story that is being spoken about. This is what social media can do, one story and it can go viral, no matter how small. The game of football will continue to be the most spoken-about topic and have the biggest impact for the foreseeable future.

I asked ten random people through a survey, what do use social media for most? The replies were surprising with nine out of the ten people replying football, as opposed to another sport, whereas one person replied with social. It’s clear that the percentage of social media users uses it for social but in this case the power of social media in football is clear for all to see.

The power of football in social media is certainly not one to be underestimated. On twitter, in the UK, the top ten trends of the year so far contained eight football related topics, ranging from the world cup to the Manchester United vs Bayern Munich game in April.

Social media is the perfect stage for one to get accustomed to their team, learn about them, keep up to date with them etc. It’s not only ideal for the football fans around the world to remain intact with their teams but it’s also great for the footballers around the world to keep in touch with their fans, give something back to them and updating them on certain situations, such as injury updates.

With the power of social media there is no doubt that the old-fashioned media such as print and radio have declined ever so slightly, with most football journalists joining the social media bandwagon. The traditional types of media have joined the more modern social media to stay intact with their audience and to remain relevant.

There are many examples as to how big football is compared to other sports in social media. Brazilian footballer Kaka became the first ATHLETE to reach 10 million followers on twitter, which is impressive not only for him but for football too. Another example of how big football is compared to other sports on social media is Spanish football club FC Barcelona having a combined total of almost 18 million followers, the fourth most followed brand out of all of the twitter brands, ten million more than NBA.

Social media has been used in so many ways. For football clubs there are now ways to engage with their fans all around the world. They can use it to their advantage by doing market research, using fans interaction to help them be the best that they can be. They can help customers/fans with enquiries by answering them through the social media sites. Another possibility is to promote something, such as their own website, match day tickets or even one of their own player’s accounts. It gives them the chance to have a better connection with the fans and the club.

Footballers can share their daily lives with their fans, something that is very appealing to the normal football supporter. They can see what their idols do in their lifestyle and open up a brand new insight into something that they will have interest in. Lifestyle could be things such as what the footballer eats, listens to or gets up to in spare time etc.

Fans use it engage with fellow fans, rivals fan or even try to get some engagement with the footballers they love. For the upcoming journalist or freelance journalist, they could use social media as a way to promote their work, use the platform to get publicity.

According to this infographic, you can see that Facebook have nearly 1.2 billion users registered to their website. Twitter, despite launching in 2008 with 6 million, now has over 500 million users and google has 1 billion users too. The other two social media platforms are Instagram which is quite recent, launching in 2010, on 150 million people registered users. The final one in the infographic is pinterest which launched in 2012 and is on 70 million users.

These are all the main reasons and websites that people are using social media more and more. Every platform is unique and modern in its own way. Instagram can see a footballer post a picture to his fans of him and his teammates in the dressing room after a game, something the fans can’t exactly see behind closed doors. There really isn’t any way to use these social media platforms; you can post pictures on twitter and Facebook too, each to their own.

These points prove comprehensively that football is a big part of social media. But how important is social media to football? We already know that it’s got a massive following on social media but despite this we can’t just assume that fans are following their idols and that’s it.

Not every single user in social media is active, there are many that create an account and don’t use. However, the majority of active users tend to be very active on the day of the game. These can not only be the clubs reporting on their games but the fans who also change the level of posts they do. It’s almost as if they change when the games come on because of the exposure they can get. Other fans could see it during the game and follow them or interact with them, giving a fan every reason to be active on social media whilst watching a game. Social media is used to interact with each other regularly, daily, weekly etc and because of this it means that in terms of football that it will keep doing what its doing; dominate social media. This infographic basically shows how football’s biggest event had on impact on social media. The FIFA world cup in 2014 had a huge amount of users over the globe and the main points to come out from it were as follows; simply showing how football brings social media to life.

· Over 300 million tweets about the world cup

· Over one billion Facebook interactions regarding the world cup

· Biggest event in Facebook history

These statistics are even bigger considering the big events in the past years, non-football related or even football related as there are other big events too, maybe not as big as the World cup though. The biggest Facebook event is a big feat, especially considering the fact Facebook now has over one billion users as previously mentioned. More users can mean more records broken but not all new users are necessarily football fans which go to show just how big the football World Cup is.

In early December of 2014, Manchester United footballer Rafael Da Silva created a twitter account and reached 35,000 followers in immediate quick time. Indian cricketer Shikhar Dhawan also created a twitter account at the same time and his account has only reached almost 5,000 twitter followers. This goes to show how the popularity of football has taken over against cricket. The footballer plays on a bigger stage and his social media accounts will get more publicity automatically because of the sport he is in.

Footballers automatically get a lot more popularity and this is clear with the amount of followers that were gained in such a short period of time. However it is interesting to work out whether people sign up to the social media bandwagon for their own pleasure or just as a result of the people around them.

It’s quite easy to say that the social media platforms aren’t necessarily required for footballers, they have everything they need. They don’t need to create a social media account; they could be doing because they want more followers than their rivals to gain popularity and more fans. As of June this year you can see the top ten most followed athletes on social media today by clicking on this link.

Looking at the link, the numbers of followers are absolutely breath-taking. It’s even more of a shock when they don’t even post much or when the posts on their social media accounts aren’t even from the person themselves! Cristiano Ronaldo, the most followed athlete, has his tweets posted by his management. They have to hold themselves to a high standard and make sure that they never say anything inappropriate or controversial because it will damage their image and social media following. Athletes, especially footballers, need to be aware of what they post because if they do post a tweet that isn’t acceptable then they are going to get in trouble with the football authorities, like the FA in this county. Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli was recently charged for an inflammatory social media posting. This was despite Balotelli thinking he had done nothing wrong but this is the situation footballers find themselves in. As they are involved in such a game that has a massive audience they can’t afford to say anything wrong or else they will damage their own image, the clubs image and land themselves in trouble. Despite this, the most followed athletes haven’t landed themselves in any trouble and are very well behaved on their social medias account.

The most followed athletes use their accounts to their advantage as you may well expect. So Ronaldo will always advertise his app, his Nike boots, his underwear collection etc whilst Neymar will advertise Panasonic and Red bull amongst others. The players do this to get more money as they have a big audience to promote their sponsors with. The players get paid more by just simply sharing something which is so easy for them.

Just imagine a player like Joey Barton, someone who has nearly 2.8 million followers on twitter, made his name for being controversial on the pitch but in the last few years, although he’s calmed down now, Barton tended to be controversial, criticising fellow players in a harsh manner. Without social media it could be argued that Barton wouldn’t have gained the popularity that he boasts now. Social media quite simply helps athletes gain popularity and also a lot of money, depending on how successful they are on social media.

Football clubs social media accounts are extremely important nowadays, with clubs such as Southampton and many more having their clubs hashtag symbol on the sponsor boards behind the interviewees before and after the games. Nothing like a bit of self-advertising. A football team in Mexico called Club de Futbol Jaguares de Chiapas have gone even further and actually unveiled their new kit which displays the players twitter handle instead of their actual name. A very different way to get more connected with the fans even though the club isn’t the biggest in the world. That’s not important to them though, they’re building a relationship with their fans and at the same time advertising themselves on social media, trying to gain the popularity for their club and players. The Jaguares aren’t the first team to do something like this, with Spanish side Valencia advertising the clubs twitter handle on the front of the shirt a few years ago.

So that’s the importance of social media in Mexico and Spain. What about back in England where we see Southampton manager Ronald Koeman have his own Twitter account. Koeman was previously a footballer before retiring, a very good one at that. He is using the success of his career, which has gained popularity on his twitter account to nearly one million followers, to help the sides that he manages gain the popularity that he has. It’s fair to say that around the world Koeman will be more known than Southampton, so the fact he has his own twitter account, in which he tweets before and after games, calling for support for his team, helps Southampton a lot and gives the fans something different, as we don’t really see club managers have twitter accounts.

In 2011, legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson was very critical of twitter saying: “I don’t understand it, to be honest with you. I don’t have the time to do it. There are a million things you can do with your life other than that. Go to a library and read a book. I’m serious. What a waste of time.” Because of this, Manchester United, the team Sir Alex managed never had a normal twitter account like the other 19 teams did in the English Premier League. United couldn’t risk upsetting their beloved manager so decided to just have a spokesperson account, which was very different.

When Sir Alex retired, United made a twitter account immediately, much to the delight of the fans. They could finally get team news before every game right from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. They could finally get transfers confirmed, news, commentary and squad updates instead of having to go to the website, which many people wouldn’t prefer doing as the twitter account is so much better given the number of fans they have on twitter.

Premier league club Tottenham Hotspur are one of the best clubs in the league when it comes to social media. They do all the normal things that other clubs do such as provide news, confirm transfers, players interviews, exclusive photos etc. However, now they have introduced something that hasn’t been done before in the premier league social media accounts. Spurs have started to release vines. Vine is an app that produces six second clips and Spurs share clips of the team warming up and this is exactly why social media is by far the best type of media right now. This is what fans love, things that you don’t see elsewhere. Teams like Southampton have followed suit and I follow expect it to be done from every Premier League club eventually.

Football clubs are most definitely going to keep doing what they do and more to keep getting their club publicity in the media, on social media mainly, to their fans and to keep promoting their own product as a club and as a name. Social media is continuing to grow and clubs know that they must make sure that that is one of their biggest priorities. Social media is extremely important in today’s world and those who do not take it seriously could fall behind their rivals and will regret it. If you doubt social media, then look at all the top European football clubs who are heavily involved in it. Social media has become crucial to football as it continues to evolve, showing no signs of slowing down.

Football without social media could mean that fans wouldn’t be able to get close to their beloved clubs and that is already a big thing. Without social media players wouldn’t get their name and publicity that they receive from social media posts, meaning the characters in football could potentially be lost, leaving the sport a bit boring and uninteresting as opposed to how it is now. The fans are an important part of the sport and keeping them interested and involved is important.

The advantages for social media in football nowadays are huge and the great thing is that football will continue to use social media as it blossoms to something even bigger. This will benefit football clubs in a social way, financial way, business way and most importantly it will make them all better football clubs. Football will keep on increasing fan engagement all around the world and create new and improved relationships with fans. Football clubs will make money if they play their cards right and use their social media account to their advantage. Football won’t progress as well without social media which shows just how crucial and important the platform is to football today.

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