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.

3 Responses

  1. First, the Revs FO went waayyyy over the line with their reaction to the chants. In particular the You Suck A-hole chant. I have children and don’t like the swearing too much, and I think it’s unnecessary and doesn’t show any more/less support for your team if it’s included in the chant or not. But an organized reaction such as the one that happened was way over the top. I could argue all day about other people not in the fort that openly swear, other sporting events, and why aren’t they arrestted, kicked out, etc. But that’s not the point here. What the Revs FO has done is now alienate their most arduous supporters. The Revs have shown that they aren’t willing to commit to putting the right personnel on the field and now there are these actions off the field. Just makes me happier that I didn’t renew my season tickets and just stay at home and watch games. As for the social media aspect, airing dirty laundry on the web (twitter, facebook, etc.) doesn’t help the situation. All it’s doing is make this organization look more juvenile. You can be the amount of negative posts on the Revs FB page would be a lot lower if Brian hadn’t responded. Now all it does is push away any non-supporter group visitors because the wall is dominated by these posts and discussions. Oh well, just add it to the stadium woes, no effort for a DP and growing list of Revolution maladies. here’s a good article from the Timbers Army site – http://timbersarmy.org/you-suck – it makes for good reading

  2. The “you suck a-hole” chant directed at visiting team’s goalies is an MLS thing apparently. They do it at Red Bulls games and others I’ve heard on tv. If it was solely a NYC area thing then I would be all for it, but since MLS supporters haven’t developed their own stuff yet, I can’t wait until its gone from memory. It will be a good thing when the MLS is seasoned enough and fans have created local and unique chants a little more original than “You Suck A-hole”.

  3. @Troy I doesn’t happen at D.C. United games. I’ve never heard it in RFK.

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