Thursday, 26 April 2012

Swans still bottom of the Twitter League

Back in October I produced a blog looking at the relative number of Twitter followers for the Premier League teams and noted that the Swans were bottom of the pile.  As the season comes to an end I’ve had a look at the relative number of followers on Twitter/Facebook for the Premier League clubs.

In October, Swansea were bottom of the Twitter Premier League list with only 568 followers (and only 1 tweet).  As at 24th April they are still bottom but have increased their following to over 6,500.  However, compared to their Facebook standing where Swansea are mid-table, their Twitter following is lagging behind.
Twitter Followers / Facebook Likes as at 24th April.  
Man Utd have no official Twitter account  
Colour splits are my subjective bandings of followers 
e.g., Man Utd have by far the most Facebook likes followed by a group comprised of Arsenal/Chelsea/Liverpool
A good example of how Premier League clubs in general are getting on with Social Media is that 15 of the clubs have fewer followers than @anfieldcat who sprung up after appearing on the field during a live game between Liverpool and Spurs.  There's more to Twitter than just follower numbers (e.g., Retweets, Mentions etc.,) but shows the viral power of Social Media.

Looking at the relative follower/like figures for teams, you can roughly say that number of followers will be a combination of current success, Club history and marketing.  Wigan for example who are at the wrong end of both the Twitter and Facebook lists are using their Facebook page to advertise cut price tickets to their last two home games as part of their battle to stay up.

For Wigan, with so much competition in the North-West, marketing is vital in attracting an audience
Whatever your thoughts on Man United you can’t argue they’ve been the dominant team of the last 20 years and are pretty aggressive (or switched-on) in terms of marketing and with 24 million Facebook fans even a picture as dull as that below can get 37k likes.

Yes, really. This picture has over 37,000 likes on Facebook
Part of the problem of any ‘smaller’ club looking to grow their fanbase is trying to avoid alienating the core fans at the same time (‘Where were you when we were shit?’).  For Swansea, there’s arguably 10k who will be there no matter what (as well as true hard core fans there’ll undoubtedly be some who have been seduced by recent success but are now hooked for the long haul regardless).

Obviously a club can’t jump on an incident like one savvy Twitter user has to build a following with @anfieldcat but good topical content can quickly spread far beyond your initial contact base.

As Twitter is an open platform it's possible to analyse who is following particular accounts, unique followers from multiple Twitter accounts etc., below are a few areas in which they can maybe improve their reach.

1: Get the players involved
The last thing you want is a players Twitter account to be is some corporate mouthpiece but a number of the players have followings far in excess of that of the club and partnerships/promotions could help @swansofficial's following.  

Examples include Ashley Williams (66k),  Wayne Routledge (77k), Danny Graham (67k) and Nathan Dyer with 48k.  Obviously not all of these followers will be Swans fans and could be followers from previous clubs or the national side in Ash's case but a big proportion of the them will be a potential audience for the Swans.

2: Work with Swans Fan Sites
Between them, the Twitter accounts of @vitalswansea, @swansnews, @swansinfo and @swansfc have over 9,400 unique followers of which, over 7,700 don't follow @swansofficial

It wouldn't be a case of replicating any of what these sites are doing but you would generally expect those interested in these sites to be interested in the official club account.

3: Create Twitter content worth following
Aside from discussion around key issues such as Justin Bieber's latest haircut, football is probably one of the main areas discussed on Twitter.  The key difference (for a football club at least) between traditional marketing and social media is rather than just broadcasting a message you want a real level of interaction between you and those you are communicating with.

That said some of the old marketing tricks are still valid and the use of exclusive content, Q&As and Surveys are still great ways to interact.  As an example, a Twitter Survey service such as TwitPolls offers the ability to keep survey responses within Twitter, so rather than just a load of responses at the end, everyone who follows anyone who responds will see their response.

Some people might say 'Who cares?' about all this but Swansea's approach to marketing (across the board, not just social media) could have a big impact on the impact if/when they drop out of the Premier League.  It's a lot easier to build a relationship (that will hopefully last) when times are good rather than when times are difficult.

With talks of extending the capacity of the Liberty from 20k to 30k, Swansea find themselves in the position of currently having demand but limited supply (every home allocation for Swansea has sold out) but run the risk of supply in a couple of years with greatly reduced demand.

Since moving to the Liberty in 2005/6, crowds have generally averaged 15k for Championship and 13-14k for League One, although since moving to the Liberty every season has been relatively successful. 

Average Attendance per Season (source
The scenario that poses Swansea most problems is not trying to sell out a 30k capacity stadium in the Premier League in a year or two, it’s the scenario of be trying to get crowds above 15k in a 30k stadium in a couple of years time if at the wrong end of the Championship (or worse).  Right now things could hardly be better, but confidence at a football club can disappear in a matter of moments.

That said it is incredibly difficult to just tread water in the Premier League.  As long as if the worst case scenario occurs, that the club isn’t broken by having 10k crowds in league one in an extended stadium then they should go for it as ultimately 'ambition is critical'.