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What Is Football’s Status On Facebook?

Thu 12th Nov 2015 | Fan Engagement

Sometimes it’s hard to image the scale of possibilities afforded by what initially seemed like a tool for telling people how your day was. But the growth of Facebook has been no accident and the scale of possibilities it offers to users has probably exceeded that of even its creator, Mark Zuckerberg.

With over 1.5 billion people connected globally Facebook is without doubt the largest social network and significantly for us, over 650 million of those are connected to a sports page. In June 2015, Facebook revealed it had 968 million daily active users and with that, 844 million connecting via a mobile device.

Numbers like that are enough to get any Marketing Manager’s knees trembling but with the scale comes an intimacy, a personal level that traditional marketing could never achieve.

“It used to be that communication was very much a one way street,” explained Glenn Miller, Sport and Entertainment Partnerships Manager for EMEA, at Facebook. “Person to person you might have been calling someone on the phone, but when it came to clubs, and particularly players speaking, it was very much in a broadcast mode. They were putting things out there and the conversation ended there. Conversations weren’t going two ways; social media now allows that conversation to be a two way dialogue.”

The advent of social media fundamentally changed the way clubs and brands communicated with fans and through Facebook, four key sections help drive this - Scale & Reach, Engagement, Personalisation and Insight.

“We have over 650 million people who are connected to sport pages,” Glenn continues. “That puts us, in terms of size, in the top ten countries in the world. Those are just people interested in sport.”

The scale of Facebook’s global reach is clearly demonstrated with conversations about the FIFA

World Cup in Brazil being a prime example. “We had 350 million people talking about the World Cup.”

Taking it to a more regional level the UEFA Champions League final between Juventus and Barcelona in May saw 28 million people discussing it. “What’s really interesting when you look at the scale and the reach, in that final you had a Spanish team and an Italian team, yet the number one country that was speaking about it was Brazil. Number two was Italy and number three was Indonesia and Mexico. So you can see that even with a regional event anyone around the world can get behind it because they can connect to clubs, players and other fans on Facebook.”

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Behind the scale, and equally important, is the availability of data from a Facebook page. “Running a Page for a club or player, you get a wealth of insights on your audience. You can see where they are, what language they speak and how they engage with your posts.

“You can analyse their behaviours and start to run content programmes to suit. The insights that a club or a brand can receive by being a page admin allows them to make educated decisions. This ends up being a very meaningful part of how they communicate with them. They get to understand more about what fans want from them and how they can communicate directly to them.”

And that high level of understanding drives what social media marketers find is its most unique point - personalisation. “With all of the tools that we have we can give clubs the chance to be super relevant and give fans really tailored content that’s specific to what they are interested in as well as what their location is. We have different tools that allow you to geo-target, so everything is very personalised on Facebook.”

One of the examples of clubs utilising Facebook to drive engagement is the use of live Q&As. “We have a feature that anyone that has a verified page can start a Q&A direct with their fans. We’ve seen it across the board, whether it’s with players like Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young or [Gerard] Pique, or going up a level to UEFA and the Champions League where Facebook Fan Q&As are part of their media days.

“These become part of the media but also what clubs need to do in order to connect on a regular basis with their fans and give them that direct access.”

But this is just a very small part of the power Facebook has to reach and connect a fanbase. “One part that’s really exploding right now is video. When we first started this year we had 1 billion views per day, and now we’re over 4 billion video views a day.

“Some of that content is absolutely incredible. One of my favourites was Pique live streaming his journey to the stadium, through Mentions Live. You got to see what it was like to go from his house to the stadium and how he was feeling and the environment around him.”

The development of video has also led to the launch of 360 Video in September this year which gives users a, you guessed it, 360 view of the subject.

“Think about some of the great content Manchester City make like Tunnel Cam, some of their most engaged content, that’s a 360 experience. How does that now live on Facebook and get fans all around the world to participate in that? The sky is the limit there and I think we’re now beginning to see just how creative sports entities and individuals can be with that content.”

And it’s not just club video content that has been rethought. “Facebook has given rights holders the opportunity to think about how they broadcast matches,” Glenn adds. “Recently we streamed the Audi Cup, Trophy de Champions, USA versus Brazil and Brazil versus Costa Rica in the football world and that was exciting to be able to bring football to markets that didn’t have this to watch on TV.”

Broadcasting matches clearly has a captive audience with the average time someone watched the Brazil versus Costa Rica game being 47 minutes with most of the viewers on mobile.

But one of the key questions in the minds of many club owners is how does all this great activity impact on the bottom line?

“What we’ve seen because of the engagement and the growth clubs and players have had is that it can drive direct revenue. Revenue comes in a variety of forms. It could be tuning into broadcasts, it could be looking at ads from a sponsor, selling tickets or pushing people to download an app or digital subscription. It could be enhancing fan experiences or even referral traffic by driving people to the website.

“You decide what you want to do with them when they’re there. Is it CRM to create a database, is it bringing them into a more in-depth personalised experience? We have half a billion people on Facebook that are interested in this content and they’re ready to be engaged by the clubs and the athletes which is really, really exciting.

“Clubs are building their fanbase out of Facebook. You look at Manchester United who has the largest Premier League page or Barcelona who is the largest football club on Facebook or even Cristiano Ronaldo who has the biggest page in general on Facebook. They have all these fans and they’re there for them, it’s then up to the club or individual to build a relationship with them and once they have built that relationship, they need to decide what they want them to do.

“Never before have you been able to go do one action, click and post and instantly reach a global audience. Facebook allows that to happen.” 

First published in fcbusiness issue 89

Written by: Aaron Gourley 



If you have any football business related news stories you’d like to share then please contact us – agourley@fcbusiness.co.uk  

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