Why are Manchester United happy to ignore Twitter?

Poor handling of social media campaigns has seen a number of high profile organisations exposed to viral internet complaints, attracting hundreds of thousands of responses in each case, and causing the company in question a considerable headache for, in some cases, merely failing to respond. Even more noticeable than the failure to not reply, however, is the decision to not even have a presence and therefore totally fail to engage with fans. One of the biggest examples of a ‘sleeping giant’ within football is Manchester United’s reluctance to fully take to Twitter.

United’s highly publicised listing in the NY Stock Exchange earlier this month was promoted on the back of a strong social media presence, citing the impressive 27m fans on Facebook, where they are way ahead of their English rivals and only narrowly behind Spanish giants Real and Barca. However, social media is tool to engage with fans and the fairly passive nature of a Facebook page seems a bit of a cop out for a club who claim to have 659m global fans.

So noticeably, when the official UEFA Champions League twitter page listed the 32 top European clubs, who will be drawn into groups for the competition late last month, United stood out sorely as the only team not to be linked to an account. The only credible ‘official’ MUFC account is @ManUtd_PO, which has amassed 61,000 followers yet offers very little. This account, which states through its background picture, that is it the ‘Official Account of Manchester United’ distances itself from any fan or player based engagement, following only a selection of journalists, and simply tweeting news stories from the clubs official site.

There is another account which offers more club ‘insight’ and encourages fan engagement, and this is @DHL_ManUtd. Followed by only 5,000 users, the DHL account claim to provide ‘behind-the-scenes access to the club’ including a stream of exclusive pictures (notably of players all wearing the club’s DHL branded training kit). As the clubs ‘official logistics partner’ DHL manage to promote themselves through this lucrative partnership, whilst offering United fans a somewhat small chance to engage officially. However, for a company who are a leading delivery company it is interesting that they can’t send users offsite for more engagement, with a defunct link in their Twitter bio.

The Manchester Evening News have suggested that United are now considering the launch of an official twitter accounts, pointing out in their story that as well as being a noticeable absentee amongst Europe’s elite, they are also the only PL club without a presence. In a comment which has subsequently been removed since the story was posted on Wednesday night, the MEN said they understood that United would ‘ensure commercial partners were happy before they launch an account’. Considering the current @DHL_ManUtd set up, it is not inconceivable for United to remain absent from twitter, instead allowing their vast number of new commercial partners to instead conduct their own activities on the back of the Manchester United ‘brand’. However, for fans who want to get involved in club and players Q&A’s, conducted so well by top teams such as across-town rivals Manchester City, their engagement may be limited to commercially focused activity which fails to follow the simple and effective campaigns of so many other clubs.

Manchester United, so often a leader in the past, are falling behind their rivals with their failure to act. Sir Alex Ferguson has often spoken of his own failure to understand the point of social media sites such as Twitter, but someone at the club must surely see the potential that a no-strings-attached, official page could bring to their worldwide fanbase?

Jonny Pennington

Football Travel Blogger for http://abroadred.co.uk.

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3 Responses

  1. The article presents a fair reflection of Utd’s social media presence. I ‘liked’ their facebook page but more often than not, I find the posts uninspiring or uninteresting. I still think there is a rush to become the most ‘liked’ club in the world but it most likely masks a low level of engagement. As for Twitter, was amazed Utd didn’t have one and still am. City are streaks ahead of them.

    • Sean Walsh says:

      Hi Stuart,

      Thanks for the comment – I agree with everything. For all there millions of Likes Manchester United are really sinking and uninspiring – meanwhile their neighbors are romping to social media success.

  2. Jonny Pennington says:

    Couple of interesting quotes I’ve since found. United’s head of global sponsorship recently said that the club are still trying to assess what their use of twitter would involve. Shows how little effort is being put into it, as over a year ago (July ’11), the head of marketing Jonathan Rigby said;

    “We were late into social media and were worried a lot about how to approach it as a football club. Our big concern is that if we get it wrong that the fanbase will stop growing. There will be no official Twitter site until we have satisfied ourselves that we have determined a role for Twitter.”

    Strikes me as them being completely naive about it all, and again, happy for big spending sponsors to conduct their own brand based activities instead.

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