LinkedIn was the subject to a major IPO last week and has seen share prices soar by 110% in just a week. This was particularly interesting as it is one of the first major social networks to go public and really is unexplored waters. For whatever reason, the news made me consider why is LinkedIn often left forgotten by marketers. Having worked in the social media industry for awhile, it tends to be that clients (and companies) just decide to set up a LinkedIn channel along with their new Facebook and Twitter pages, but rarely know why. In keeping with football clubs slow adoption of social media, LinkedIn is barely recognised by the major commercial teams.
LinkedIn recently hit the 100 million members mark and with it’s recent success in the market, it needs to be taken seriously.
Sure, LinkedIn is typically less social than Twitter and Facebook. And yes, most of your colleagues and business contacts probably don’t care about your football team, so why would you ever bring that aspect of your personal life into a predominantly business-focused/recruitment platform? But that doesn’t excuse ‘social media chiefs’ ignoring it altogether.
A very quick search shows that there is a demand and there already communities set up. A ‘Manchester United Supporters’ group has near 2.5k members, the Arsenal equivalent has 2.1k. These are unofficial groups moderated by fans, but set up for the purpose of like-minded supporters to connect with each another, and potentially do business whilst expanding their own personal network. By using a shared interest in football, it creates a casual and comfortable first point of contact in which relationships are already created. We all know that businesses exploit this bond between fans, if in doubt, just look at the number of corporate hospitality tickets on sale every season. The fans do use the channels, and they clearly want to connect with other supporters, despite the more formal nature of LinkedIn.
But how can football clubs manage these channels I hear you ask, and more importantly why?
An excellent example of LinkedIn working for sports can be found in the Celtic FC Business Network (Sorry, can’t help but be heavily biased!). The group is set up and run officially by the Scottish club’s new business/corporate hospitality department. Although it currently only has just under 200 members, this officially sanctioned LinkedIn group states that:
“The group will provide a platform for you to make valuable connections, take part in discussions,receive exclusive content and find out about the latest initiatives going on at the club. In addition to this you’ll get up to date information about hospitality, sponsorship, events and networking”
More importantly, the club has supported the group by launching an offline lunch event at Celtic Park for members to network with each another, listen to keynote speakers, meet the Celtic CEO and do business with like minded Celtic fans. It’s first event sold out with 200 (more than their actual LinkedIn presence) turning up in Glasgow to support the innovative initiative. More impressively, the club has reached out to those who attended and asked for feedback about what they want to get from future events.
I think it’s a fantastic use of LinkedIn to just connect fans closer to the club both socially and commercially, but it adds real purpose to their social media and taps into a market that perhaps never use the likes of Facebook or Twitter. If football is a business, then clubs need to get their act together and starting interacting on LinkedIn – a specifically business oriented channel.