Using Social Media

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Advertising can be a very important part of club survival. Getting your name out there might bring new players to your tryouts and put you on the radar for potential business partners. Creating a dialogue with the outside world may also help to retain your existing customers, by letting them know what great new developments your club has made and how you are benefiting their financial investment in you. Advertising often costs money though, which clubs can sometimes struggle to afford. Additionally, the conversation created by a magazine article is one way (you write and they read).

With the development of social media over the last few years, you can now advertise to different members of the community for free, and get feedback from them that will both improve the targeting of your advertising, but also help you see how people feel about the direction your club is taking. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there are a wide range of different social media products, so the first question is which one(s) should you use? We examine a few popular options here and detail a few tricks to improve your use of them.

Facebook

One of the older products out there – Facebook started as a way for university students to interact and learn about each other. It became so popular that it quickly spread into the general public, with now over 1.35 billion users. There are 10% more female users than male users but 71% of Americans use it on a regular basis. Facebook is available on a wide range of platforms – from desktop computer to mobile phone. The average phone user checks their page 14 times per day. By having a facebook page for your club, you can get your messages into the stream of information users are checking on a regular basis. It is quite normal now for people to delete emails without even looking at them: we find that a large percentage of our membership don’t ever read emails that we send out. With Facebook it is much more of an effort to delete individual posts, and by the time they decide to do that they have read it anyway! Some tips for using Facebook: –

  • Limit the amount of information you post and the frequence of your posts. If you do too much you will get deleted (or unfollowed) so you want to target the information towards things people might actually want to read. You can also schedule when posts are published, so you can write several at once and spread them out over several days.
  • Include a picture. Generally the picture should be your own (not stolen from the internet) and it should make people want to read what it is about. Try to get away from posting endless teams wearing medals photos and look more at action shots and images from outside the game.
  • Know your audience. Facebook is increasingly becoming an older audience as kids choose other social media platforms (Instagram, Snapchat etc), so your target here is probably more the parents and club alumni.
  • Check the comments. This will give you feedback but you also don’t want someone else advertising their club or trashing yours in your own post comments. Checking regularly will make sure you catch these moments (if you allow comments).
  • Use the insight analysis tools. Facebook provides you with tools that tell you how many people each post reached and how engaged the readers were (how many clicked on the photos or links, liked the post or commented). From this you can learn which kind of posts people are most interested in seeing (generally it is pictures of players and teams).

Instagram

Started in 2010, Instagram has rapidly grown to have over 150 million followers. Its focus is on sharing square images and short (15 seconds or less) video clips. Comments and hashtags can be added to each post but these are generally kept short in comparison to Facebook. The application is almost entirely used through mobile phones, with a roughly equal split between Android and iPhone users. What makes Instagram useful for youth soccer clubs is that 90% of users are under 35, making it the current popular choice for teenagers in the US. Only 12% of users make over $50,000 per year, so this probably isn’t the tool to use to hunt for sponsorships and business partners. There is also a split of roughly two thirds of users being female and one third male.

For successful clubs it is proving to be very important to have an Instagram account to communicate with their current and potentially future players. They can use it to post pictures of what their current players and coaches are doing, success at tournaments, new programs in the club that players would be interested in, and general motivational/educational posts encouraging players to set goals and so on. The following are some tips for using Instagram for your club: –

  • Use hashtags with every post. Unlike Facebook, Instagram users frequently search for other posts that share a certain theme and it is very easy to do so. If you can attach your post to a few different themes it is likely that you will be found by a wider audience, which will increase the number of people who follow you. We recommend 2-3 hashtags with each post so as not to clutter up the page.
  • Use your own pictures. You are trying to be unique here… taking other people’s images of professional players doesn’t add to your brand or differentiate you from the million other soccer accounts on Instagram. Use only pictures you own the copyright to and that people can’t find anywhere else.
  • Follow people of your own. Another way to get followers is to follow other people. By liking other pictures, commenting on them, and following people you increase the chances that they will choose to follow you. Keep in mind though that you are representing your club, so you need to be careful of who you choose for “the club” to follow. Does it represent your image? Also, if you have a policy on text messages for players, does it apply to you following players in the club?
  • Post regularly, but not too often. You need to post images as each one will increase your viewers. If you send too many in a row though people will unfollow you, so spread them out and go with quality over quantity. Think about when your audience are most likely to check it – after school 3-8pm is usually the most effective time. Keep in mind that after 3-4 hours your post will be buried underneath a mountain of others, so try to target posting right at the prime time if you are doing one per day.
  • Use group and team photos. We find that our most successful posts (for getting more followers) are those with lots of people in so they can all share and tag each other in the comments, making your post noticed by people who previously didn’t know you existed. Collect interesting team and group photos from your coaches and post these among the other content.
  • Choose a good username, profile picture and bio section. Quite likely to be your club logo, mission statement and some version of the club name, but in every case think about what would appeal to an audience of your players (especially if your mission statement is dry…).
  • Geotag your pictures. If they are at different tournaments or even locations around town, use the photo map function to show where. This will increase your audience and also show people how far your club goes and the experiences you give players.

Twitter

Twitter started in 2006 and has over 500 million users. It is referred to as a “microblogging” service, where users can post a sentence or two, but no more than 140 characters in length. Often they use it to update everyone about what they are doing throughout the day, thoughts they have, or conversation with other people. It is attractive because you can post from anywhere by smartphone or computer and it doesn’t require photos or anything else to be prepared. Because of the frequency of messages, each one you send will last for a shorter amount of time, but you can send more of them than you could with other services, without overwhelming people.

19% of adults in the US use Twitter. This compares to 71% who use Facebook, so this is a relatively smaller audience. By far the largest audience are aged 18-29, which is generally the least useful audience for youth soccer clubs as their are neither current players or the majority of your parent base. Twitter can be very effective though: by a margin of 64%, users are more likely to buy from brands they follow on Twitter, so getting followers will directly benefit your club.

  • Decide what you are using Twitter for. Many clubs use twitter to pass on calendar information and news from the greater soccer world. It can be a good way to share links to new website pages and news events that affect the club.
  • Use hashtags (#) and at (@) in your posts. This way you can tie your story to other posts with the same theme, and link other users to your conversation. The @ symbol is used to link to a specific person’s Twitter account.
  • Post regularly. As a rule, people with less than 1000 posts have fewer than 100 followers. People with 10,000 have 1000-5000 followers on Twitter. Use a service like Hootsuite to time your posts (spreading them out throughout the day).
  • Tweet inspirational content. People enjoy reading quotes and if they are shorter than 140 characters, Twitter is a great place to do it. Build a library of quotes about soccer, practice, setting goals, dealing with pressure etc, and post one every day among your other content.
  • Find out who follows your followers. Services like Tweepi will tell you who is following the people who follow you. It is likely that many of them will be interested in youth soccer so might want to follow you too. Follow the people recommended by Twitter too, when you initially sign up.

Other Services

There are hundreds of other upcoming or lesser used social media products that could benefit your club. Many are free and all could provide you with potential customers. Keep in mind that maintaining each one will take time though, so unless you have a full time staff member taking care of everything, it might make sense to stick to a few that will provide you the most return, and do them well. We have listed a few popular ones below that can be used in a similar way to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: –

  • Linkedin – business-orientated service used for professional networking. Many clubs have a business page on there about their club and some post regularly through it. There are over 300 million users and a large percentage are adults with college degrees and from higher income bands. This is a good service to use to post about your big financial projects that could use sponsorship and partnership.
  • Pinterest – a service that allows users to create and share the collections of visual bookmarks (boards) about specific topics (in your case, youth soccer). Founded in 2010, Pinterest already has 250 million users. Businesses can create pages to promote their products. One survey found that users spent $185 on products from a company’s Pinterest page, compared to $85 on Facebook. 83% of users in the US are women and the majority are aged 33-45, which is a prime age for club parents.
  • Google+ – Google’s version of Facebook. It is tied in to other Google products such as Gmail and YouTube which has greatly increased the audience – now close to 500 million. 60-70% of users are male and the age range has been dropped to 13 from a previous 18, allowing teenagers to sign up.
  • Tumblr – a microblogging service with over 200 million users. Clubs can post longer articles than Twitter, with pictures and videos.
  • Vine – a video sharing site that allows users to post 5-6 second clips that repeat over and over like animated pictures. Videos have to be taken from the camera on your phone though, which makes it more difficult to use for clubs looking to pool videos from coaches.
  • SnapChat – a video messaging service that allows users to send pictures and videos to friends that get deleted once they have been viewed. The service is extremely popular for 13-23 year olds, making it a good way to reach players. The difficulty is that videos have to be taken with the camera on the phone unless you have 3rd party software, but this is pretty easy to get.

Check out our interviews with Holly Schulz – Digital Brands Manager for Rush Soccer, and Lauren Meehan – Digital Brands Manager at Rush Pikes Peak Soccer Club.