Everybody can remember the Champions League final, but notice that the next big soccer event is just around the corner. In anticipation of the upcoming European Championship we are going to take a closer look at the online presence of both the soccer clubs in Germany and the German national team, called Nationalmannschaft. But what special challenges do those clubs have to meet and what mistakes have they done in the past? We will tell you.
With the help of social media channels, football clubs intend to satisfy the curiosity of their fans. Sport activities cause little aches and pains and sometimes even more serious injuries. Understandably, no fan ‘likes’ to be informed about his favorite player getting injured. The 1. FC Köln came up with a clever idea of how to promote the use of the ´Like button´ to share bad news. Even news such as the relegation to the second league recently received more than ten thousand ‘Likes’. 1. FC Köln accomplished this through having the ‘Like’ button stand as a sign of support through that difficult moment. This clever double meaning of ‘Like’ made it possible for fans to like even the bad news and to feel even closer to the club due to an authentic message. The PR professionals at 1. FC Köln are sensitized towards the fan mentality and use their community’s way of speaking. However, a company should think twice before adopting such strategies as it is easy for a company to gain a superficial reputation whose main focus is to simply amass Likes.
Also, fans do not like PR campaigns a lot that only generate hot air. The FC Bayern Munich had to learn this fact through its campaign ´The new FCB Star´ in January this year. Fans were lured onto the Facebook page to access a press conference presenting a new transfer coup. In the run up to the press conference even a number of statements by Uli Hoeneß, the president of the club, seemed to confirm the credibility of the coup. The loyal fans had legitimate hopes. More than 269,000 new fans liked the page to gain access to the press conference. But surprise: Instead of a new player the Facebook viewers only saw their own profile image. The idea of the campaign was to thank the fans for their support by introducing them as the new 12th player. It failed! Within a few hours more than 1,400 critical commentaries were written on the Facebook wall. FC Bayern eventually apologized for the deceit due to the fans negative reaction.
Since January, the Facebook community of Bayern Munich has increased from 2.7 million to more than 4 million Fans – although this trend was mainly pushed by FC Bayern reaching the Champions League final. Fans want to get authentic information from their clubs without any creative nonsense from PR consultants, who are not truly familiar with the fan community. This principle does not just apply to football fans: Companies are well advised to speak the language of their fans, followers and friends and to attempt to anticipate their reaction. Sensitivity is essential for success.
These days a lot is talked about the fan campaign of the German Nationalmannschaft. This campaign is a good example of involving fans. At present their Facebook page has around 1.36 million fans. It is likely that this number will increase rapidly since soccer sites have only recently gained popularity. Another factor contributing to the increase is that during the regular season fans are focused on local or regional soccer clubs of the German Bundesliga. During the world championship in 2010 many people in Germany started betting games with colleagues and friends. For the 2012 European Championships this will be possible on the FB fan page where it’s convenient and easy to invite friends. Several other portals like ´DFB TV´ meet almost any desire of soccer fans. Improvement can still be achieved in the current lack of photo albums regarding the team, however.
For those who want to share in the excitement of the EM, the fan page is the right place to visit. Let us hope that in the end the community members don’t have to comfort each other like the fans of the FC Bayern Munich had to. But perhaps the sting of losing isn’t quite as bad when the community members are able to comfort each other.