2012: The Year Of The Social Media Pitchside Reporter

It’s that time of year again and everyone is making predictions about what the industry can expect over the next 12 months, and as ever we’re happy to join in. 2011 was an incredibly busy year that saw European football clubs steadily begin to become more socially savvy and it has become clear which teams understand the space, and which don’t. We’ve seen developments in regards to the technology used within stadiums (something we rightly predicted in early 2011) and we’ve seen marketing departments start to understand the value of fan engagement on Social Media. Similarly, clubs continue to make the same mistakes with their players and many still choose to broadcast at fans rather than converse.

With that in mind, what’s next for 2012? A lot of my esteemed colleagues and fellow bloggers have mentioned the role of mobile, the role of video, live streaming and social advertising. However, I have decided to take a different approach and rather than look at what tactic may be employed – why these tactics will important. For me, 2012 won’t be about new Social CRMplatforms or improved YouTube features – but rather the people behind them.

2012 will be the advent of the Social Media Pitchside Reporter.

Anyone who follows Social Media and Sports in the US will already be very familiar with this role and completely understand what it entails, for the rest of us across the Atlantic, it’s still a job title that doesn’t particularly mean anything else other than ‘junior journalist’. Wrong.

The NBA and NFL are continually ahead of us in regards to digisport, they recognised the importance of Social Media Optimised Stadiums, they recognised the value of match-day promotions and, ultimately, they recognised that Sports Social Media isn’t marketing, its communications. So what will the Pitchside Reporter do?

  • Micro-Journalism:

    The live nature of the role makes it clear that the first task for this role is to clearly report what is going on in the game. What’s the score? How’s the atmosphere? This might be a live blog on the website, it might be a stream of tweets. Imagine 5Live but on Social and not the radio.

  • Live Content Creator:

    The role also requires that the individual is physically in the stadium and becoming a real bridge between those fans who have tickets and those who don’t. The Pitchside Reporter will be able to create quick and engaging content with ease and get it out onto Social channels immediately. This means recording half-time fan interviews on a smartphone, taking photos of the player celebrations and the fans, even perhaps live-streaming pre-match/halftime/fulltime events and thoughts.

  • Live Content Curator:

    Pitchside Reporters will be expected to not just create but keep an eye on what the Social space is talking about online. They might bring in tweets/updates about the match into the clubs Twitter feed, collate photos posted on Twitter from within the stadium – even videos of the different views of a goal from the stands.

  • Fly-On-The-Wall:

    In a way, major TV outlets miss the very best bits of football because they can’t report from behind the scenes. As a club employee, Pitchside Reporters will have access to areas no other camera can go. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean the changing room – but photos of the bench, talking to the kitman, the physio, images from the press conference. Fans want to see what goes on in the background – Manchester City’s tunnel cam is a prime example of this already happening in the Sport.

It sounds a lot, but it’s possible to do with the right planning and resources available. The Pitchside Reporter is somewhere between your standard Community Manager, Journalist and Press Officer. He/She needs to be given a lot of freedom to wander in and around the stadium but also they need to have the passion, knowledge and relationship with the fans in order to really engage. This isn’t a job to be handed out to interns, nor should it be a junior position – it’s a demanding position that requires a lot of multitasking and social savvyness.

The role will help clubs have more ownership over their media, their content and most importantly, more engagement with their fans. Give them the freedom and resources to do the job and these individuals can maximise having a stadium full of fanatics just waiting to create and consume your content.

Sean Walsh

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert.

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