Arsenal Football Club is one of the most decorated clubs in English football. Founded in 1886, the club has won 13 league titles and 10 FA Cups, and is only the second team to have completed a season undefeated in the league’s history.
In recent times the club has also become a champion team on the digital football pitch. Arsenal.com is ranked in the top 12 football websites worldwide, while the team has 13 million Facebook fans and the highest following of any English Premier League clubs on Twitter.
Arsenal has grown a passionate online community and transformed its fans around the world from spectators to participants, creating a unique dialogue with supporters, players, coaches and even the media.
Richard Clarke, managing editor for Arsenal Media, discussed his club’s approach to sharing news in social media at SxSW 2013. His advice was to “focus on being foremost, rather than being first and foremost.”
He also believed content delivered to fans should provide a sense of “optimistic realism” and deliver “balanced criticism” to foster reasoned debate, rather than be vanilla and overwhelmingly positive. This was echoed in a survey conducted by Arsenal.com with its website visitors in 2012.
Arsenal.com does not consider itself a news breaker for major stories. The club rests upon its ability to deliver official, legitimate and trustworthy content – even if the story has already been covered in the news.
Clarke rightly argued that the club’s depth of content, access to players, data and historical information, and the ability to “always be there” was no match for any media outlet in the world.
While major sporting codes and teams in Australia have proven their ability to engage fans while managing the flow of content into traditional and new media, there is still something to learn from the approach taken by clubs such as Arsenal.
Rather than becoming fixed on the idea that ‘if it’s our news, we must be the first to share it,’ more attention should be devoted to becoming ‘champion content creators.’
Instead of just live streaming a press conference to announce a new player, why not introduce the player afterwards to the team’s followers on Twitter with a live Q&A session? Or rather than write a post-match review, film a snippet of the coach’s address immediately after the final siren.
Many of our teams are thinking outside the field in social media, but it’s imperative they continue to find new and unique ways to engage loyal fans and welcome new supporters to their online communities.