Fan generated content is the key to sports social media

Having blogged about how sports and teams can use social media for a while now, the most surprising thing I have noticed has been the lack of fan generated content used by sporting bodies and institutes. Arguably, the greatest ingredient of sport is the fan element – a collective identity that all share the same fanatical ideology over a game.

The greatest ingredient of social media is that it literally connects people together and transcends the usual barriers of location, wealth and even language. Yet, many sports teams still seem hesitant to really understand this, and as such, seem to ignore that they have potentially millions of content creators ready to help their club out.

Yes, sports social media has come a long way in the last 12 months, but it is still incredibly one way broadcasting – particularly with UK football clubs and their social media presences. If clubs really wanted to be truly social, they would scrap their digital marketing strategy (Which is probably out of date), and worry less about ‘brand’ and more about ‘fans’.

Just imagine the possibilities of tapping into that network of talented and eager fans. One need only look at YouTube or fan forums to see the colossal amounts of fan art (some humourous photoshops, others utterly brilliant displays of art), the myriad of match reports on fan blogs, videos taken from matchdays, video compilations celebrating their sporting heroes, Facebook campaigns for social & ethical issues the fans want to support, photography of events on Flickr and the endless discussion that dominates Twitter, Facebook & Forums. The list goes on.

Sport doesn’t necessarily need to drop their employed website journalists or multimedia team, they just need to make space for their fans on that team. By all means, have the website editor write the match report, but why not ask a fan to write one as well? Or at least use quotes from Twitter? Perhaps call for budding photographers (on their DSLR or iPhone) to send in their photos to be added to the official websites gallery.

Rethink the way the websites works. It is no longer acceptable to just broadcast match reports, spam with merchandise marketing and host some awfully designed e-ticketing client (Why is it so hard to find seats together?!). Instead, sports teams should be using fan video (obviously with permission) from the stands, promoting fan written articles and most importantly using social media channels like Twitter, to talk AND listen to the fans. Marketing departments, want to know what the fans want to buy? Well ask them!

Social recommendation and referral is a huge part of marketing now, equally, social has become ever-present in the way content is written and distributed. It isn’t enough to simply sit and broadcast, get involved, leverage your online communities and empower your fans to help build your social media presence.

Sean Walsh

Founder of and leading Football Social Media expert.

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