When Social Media Bites Back

Over the last couple of years we have written extensively about the power of social media to connect teams with fans, promote a brand and drive message to the most passionate and interested potential consumers.  Every interview we have conducted with front office representatives has included a discussion about the use of social media. Universally, these front office representatives believe Facebook, Twitter, etc… are important and necessary tools for connecting with their current and future fans.  It provides teams with a dedicated avenue to reach the folks that have already identified themselves as having an interest in the team in an immediate fashion.  As the clubs become more proficient at using Facebook to connect, it will be interesting to monitor the “likes” to see if they are an accurate predictor of attendance, season ticket sales, tv ratings or something else.

Yet for all of the opportunity presented by social media, there is also great risk in allowing your fans to connect so directly and intimately with both the team and each other in a public forum blessed by the franchise.

Over the last three days, a dispute has erupted between the New England Revolution and their Supporters groups.  Whatever the merits of each side’s position, the disagreement has played out in a very public way on the Revs’ Facebook page.  The Revs’ social media home  is now ground zerio for personal attacks against front office members, angry diatribes directed against team policy and a small effort to defend the team. Most notably, team COO Brian Bilello took to the Facebook page to defend the team’s position by way of multiple three part posts.  Those efforts were met with anger and invective and the Revs’ Facebook page is now covered in anti-team passions.

The situation worsened when Mr. Bilello took to Twitter to defend the team’s Facebook policies.  Although well intentioned, sometimes 140 characters isn’t enough for detailed discussion and the Twitter exchanges failed to fully convey Bilello’s arguments.

Facebook and Twitter are wonderful tools and there will inevitably be bumps in the road as teams and fans learn the limits of their new relationship.  With the good comes the bad but ultimately, the ability of teams to connect with their fans instantly and intimately will be a phenomanal communication device. The Revs and the rest of the league should learn from the last few days and make sure they fully understanding the ramifications of the free flow of ideas permitted by the social media universe.

For more on what Mr. Bilello told us about the Revs plans to use social media a few months back, click here.