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If we’re being brutally honest; who hasn’t wished that their club’s media platforms were more like those of their rivals, yielding consistent and impressive results?

 

It’s natural to do so but my advice is to stop, immediately. Not because we should all be striving for individuality, but so that we can consider the many nuances in play and make decisions informed on what’s important.

 

We all know, given the global nature of the game, that there are many synergies that exist club-to-club that even spread across the world’s many professional and amateur leagues. Equally, there can be many differences across fanbases (demographics, social standing) that need to be carefully managed during the planning stages of any project and made relevant to your club.

 

It is therefore more crucial than ever before to get under the skin of your audience – the fans – and actively listento what they are saying.

 

Listen, learn and understand

 

The days of a sticking a finger in the air and moving with the direction of the wind are long gone. We can no longer make decisions because they ‘feel right’. People are changing, technology is changing and, if you – the person responsible for affecting positive change – doesn’t keep pace, you’ll quickly get left behind.

 

By listening to your fans first, you can learn about their needs and wants. That’s why an increasing number of clubs are opting to split their digital projects in two, with a headline strategy helping them to gain a thorough understanding before any development is planned.

 

Make informed decisions

 

This process provides an opportunity to gather a wide range of data. However, much like engagement, ‘data’ is a broad term that means different things to different people.

 

At Rippleffect, we value data that helps us build up a picture of what a supporter likes to do – how they behave online, transact and interact. Effectively, what they want. We include stakeholder engagement for richer feedback, which can include anything from talking to a working group inside a club to branching out to the wider fanbase, across all age ranges, demographics and customer types.

 

Why it works

 

During a digital project, you’ll face important decisions that often have commercial consequences. Being armed with a complete understanding of fans, you can make decisions that are well-informed and relevant.

 

For example, during a previous role, I once reversed my opinions on new design concepts following consultation with stakeholders. It led to a complete change in direction from the one initially envisaged; but one that no longer went against the opinions of the people the website was intended for.

 

It was a similar story for another Premier League club, which was initially intent on ensuring its official website became the go-to place for fans to consume the latest news first. It was a reasonable KPI to set but there were many factors threatening the success of this approach; not least, the excellent job media outlets such as Sky, the BBC and regional newspaper digital teams do in breaking news first.

 

By turning to its fanbase and interrogating its analytics, it was able to adapt its content strategy to become be more exclusive and authoritative in nature. For the first time, it was focusing on aspects of the offering that its supporters deemed most important.

 

These decisions have been justified; not only by the positive feedback from fans and impressive statistics, but by the commercial success and opportunities they presented.

 

It’s time to listen.

 

Mark Rowan

 

Sports Consultant, Rippleffect

 

Rippleffect is an award-winning digital agency, which works with a wide range of football clubs and sports organisations. Mark Rowan previously headed up media, communications and digital at Everton Football Club.