Since football clubs and players started to take advantage of Social Media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the most popular area of discussion has been player mishaps from controversial tweets through to leaking match tactics.
One of the biggest challenges many football clubs face is how can the limit the occurrences of such instances and how do they do this with players from academy level up to the first team. Furthermore, the challenge is made harder by the fact that players regularly come and go, meaning that clubs need to ensure that whatever tactics they do, that it happens constantly.
With this in mind, we look at the options open to football clubs in dealing with the issue of problematic players on Social Media:
Perhaps not as popular as it was several years ago, banning Social Media is undoubtedly the boldest of options available to clubs and usually stems from the manager’s reluctance to understand the value in Social.
Whilst simply banning players from Social Media sounds like a logical solution for stopping players saying stupid tweets (or anything at all), it’s turned out to be unenforceable and present the club in bad light with their fans. The temptation to ban Social Media might solve the problem in the short term but it never works in the long.
Fining players, or even dropping them from footballing duties, due to bad Social Media practice can act as a good deterrent for players, particularly if the deterrent is strong enough. A strong deterrent might deter players from leaking information or making stupid comments.
However, with the wages so high in football and many players making their controversies post-match or in an emotional state, sometimes this minute lapse in thought is enough to cause the crisis.
Social Media guidelines are generally the starting point for most Social Media training campaigns. A good Social Media guideline document provides players with a point of reference for the rules as well as something to help educate players on what’s expected of them.
Guidelines must be engaging, to the point and easy to digest however, as many simply produce several pages of A4 black and white paper that is likely to be shoved into a drawer and never read.
Many clubs have began inviting Social Media training experts into the club to help run sessions with the players where the best and worst scenerios/case studies can be clearly demonstrated and explained. The very best sessions are ones that don’t preach to players but directly engage them.
Pulling out real examples from the squad is a fantastic way of creating an atmosphere where players can enjoy a bit of banter but also see the effects of their tweets for themselves
5. Realtime monitoring
A very recent development to Social Media protection for football clubs is a new piece of technology called Social Pundit. The platform allows clubs to monitor players tweets (From academy to senior squad) 24/7 against a database of “trigger words”.
Should a player tweet something that is in the database, it will ping an email alert to the club and record the tweet (regardless if the player quickly deletes it or not). This system helps clubs identify problem players as well as act as a good deterrent to players on Twitter.
An excellent initiative created and used at Birmingham City FC is the use of mock press conferences and integrating real Social Media content from a players own Social Media to test their reactions and make them aware of how it can be used against them.
Birmingham City cleverly use a players own Tweets (usually the ones of a controversial nature) against him/her to illustrate just how easy it is for something as innocent as a tweet to quickly put the player in a difficult spot.
Ultimately one of the best tactics a club can undertake is not just focusing on the negatives but encouraging players to use Social Media in a positive manner. Many clubs have success with players by showing them how a good Social Media presence can help them commercially in life after football.
By encouraging footballers to build a strong, honest and engaged Social Media community – clubs hope to avoid mishaps as well as leverage the players own audience for the brand.