Newcastle United supporters – a passionate bunch

Luddites may disagree, but it’s pretty apparent that digital communications is now the front line when it comes to fan engagement for football clubs. The Premier League is a world wide brand and online means messages can be disseminated around the globe in an instant.¬†Just look at the number of followers your typical Premier League side commands – many are well in excess of their average league attendance, with more supporters lurking elsewhere in the deep, dark bowels of the internet. It’s no real surprise that social media and how clubs use it to connect with stakeholders generates strong opinions from supporters.

Newcastle United have been using Twitter for a few years now and currently have around 200,000 followers, one of the largest numbers in the league. I asked supporters about the club’s use of the platform to find out whether they thought NUFC’s use of Twitter put them top of the table or that the club were involved in a basement battle.

Supporters were asked five simple questions – whether they followed the club, what they liked, what they disliked, what they wanted to see more of and what they wanted to see less of.

First off, of those fans who responded 25% didn’t officially ‘follow’ the official Twitter account. The main reason for this, mentioned by 61% of respondents, was the glut of marketing messages sent out by NUFC. It turns out that spammy and invasive tweeting will put off even the most¬†ardent supporter.

@NUFCOfficial

This complaint was not simply restricted to those who have opted against following @NUFCOfficial. 84% of all respondents made reference to the use of the Twitter account as a vehicle for little more than adverts as one of their main dislikes of NUFC’s use of Twitter and it was a commented on frequently by those surveyed:

  • “Too many tweets about club shop offers”
  • “They just use it to sell stuff from the shop in the main. They never reply to genuine questions”
  • “The amount of tweets about selling items instead of news about the club”
  • Getting spammed by offers of merchandise from the club shop. The club shop should get a separate account”

Oh dear. It’s pretty apparent that the club’s policy of using Twitter to drive traffic and increase sales isn’t well liked and probably isn’t working either. 85% of fans said they wanted to see much less of it. But anyway, what about plus points?

To the surprise of no one, fans said they want to hear more about new signings.

When asked what they liked about the club’s Twitter almost 55% could muster an answer that wasn’t a variation on the word “nothing”. As you’d expect many of these responses focused on information that the club could publicise before anyone else, such as team line ups, signings and other breaking news:

  • “Team news on match day”
  • “Ticket announcements”
  • “Goal updates from matches are usually the quickest on Twitter”
  • “Picture galleries”

So it turns out there are a few redeeming features of the club’s Twitter use. However that cannot escape from the fact that the feeling among many supporters is that if engagement is the name of then game then the club’s presence is not fit for purpose. When pushed on what they’d like to see from the account an increase in interaction was at the top of the pile:

  • “More interaction with supporters. Better use of social media tools in general to connect with fans”
  • “Interaction with supporters. Greater innovation in terms of how it is used too. Twitter can be used for great things but Newcastle have not embraced it.”
  • “More interaction with fans”
  • “Fan engagement. A teeny tiny bit of opinion now and then and the odd exclusive signing pictures rather than having to pay for NUFC TV”

A nice, round 40% of respondents made some mention of increased engagement with supporters in some form or another. There was also a clear interest in more exclusive, behind the scenes content similar to Manchester City’s Inside City video series. Granted, that’s not strictly a comment on Twitter but it’s more proof that social media use must be coordinated cross platform.

I’ll leave the final word to one respondent who was pretty damning in his assessment of Newcastle’s use of the platform…

  • “They’ve totally missed the point of Twitter”

Keep your eyes peeled for a follow up post in which I’ll explore the ways Newcastle United can improve their use of social media.