Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have undoubtedly opened doors for Premier League clubs that just weren’t there in the past. Fan engagement, promotional activity and general club discussion have all shot up but is this for the better? Has the Premier League and all the clubs in it now just become crazed with the idea of benefitting themselves through social media? Acting as purely a corporation and treating fans as simply customers. There is certainly evidence to suggest this as numbers of fans have begun to call out their clubs on treating them as just as source of income.
Are fans taking an active role?
An interesting take on this is Paul Brown’s, a football fan who did an interview with the ‘I’ news paper where he talks about how social media and watching football on TV has made the football fan a passive consumer of the game. There is certainly evidence to suggest that this is in part the aim of the Premier League’s online content, especially when you look at the amount of promotional content produced by Premier League clubs.
Traps can be set for users, for example Man City use their own Twitter, Facebook and Youtube channels to show behind the scenes footage which fans love to get a look into but for the full package series where the behind the scenes footage is made into a documentary, fans must sign up for and pay a fee to Amazon Prime. Major Premier League clubs are clearly then able to manipulate fans using their social media, giving them a taste of something they then later make them pay for.
Much of the free to watch content content actually often has links to buy tickets, merchandise or subscribe to a service included with them, putting into question what the real aim of these clubs are. Football is now more than ever a financial competition, as clubs compete to sign the best players and develop their enormous brands so although social media may be advertised as a way to connect the club with it’s supports, fans are wise to be wary that to their clubs they are just customers.
Interacting for the sake of it?
There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that to Premier League clubs simply churning out content that they know they’re followers will read is all that’s important to them. There isn’t this back and forth conversation between fan and club that social media once promised to provide, instead it’s just a constant conveyer belt of content thats heavily like and retweeted without any follow up. In fact, already today there has been 38 tweets/retweets published by the official Premier League Twitter account, amassing well over 500 replies between them yet not a single reply has been responded to.
Is interaction to the Premier League as simple as just posting highly talked about tweets with no actual discussion? It appears so. Specific Premier League clubs are no different as a quick look at both Manchester United and Manchester City’s twitter accounts showcases a similar pattern of content being published but responses not being acknowledged.
It appears then that fans have actually been mislead by the promise of social media. Instead of bringing clubs and fans closer together, supporters have just been positioned as customers that the Premier League know they must keep engaged. There are some instances where this isn’t the case and there has actually been a positive change in the club-fan relationship (as my next blog will discuss) but in the main this is the reality for Premier League and to an even greater degree all sports fans that are on social media. The platform has arguably disconnected them from their clubs more than its ever connected them.