A quick search of Twitter accounts for the term “a-league” reveals two important facts. Firstly, the only existing Twitter account associated with that term is that of this website (and if you’re not already following us on Twitter, you can do so here). And secondly, there is no Twitter presence by the A-League itself or indeed Football Federation Australia. However, it’s not as if Football Federation Australia are that naive as to not be interacting with the community through social networks – one of the quickest ways to access news on the Socceroos is to follow the Socceroos twitter feed. So the question that needs to be asked is why is there such a poor social networking presence for what is the premier football competition in this country?
Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on the FFA without presenting some (slightly) positive evidence to the contrary. There is an A-League fan page on Facebook, and unlike many Facebook pages or Twitter accounts it does actually get updated. However, any new posts or updates to this page are sparse. The sparsity of updates wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the content that was being delivered, due to the fact that the page is currently being used to simply mirror the news headlines straight from the official A-League website. While the latest A-League news may be something that people want to read, if they wanted this they would either visit the official website or any of the myriad of sporting news sites that report on Australian football.
So for an organisation that is desperately trying to engage and involve the community, as demonstrated by this season’s ‘fan-made’ league slogan, as well as make their mark on an already crowded sporting landscape, their use of social media currently leaves much to be desired. So, what is the FFA to do? Well, the answer is actually pretty simple – they need to offer more, offer it more often, and offer something unique.
In terms of the football codes played in Australia, the AFL is the biggest and most widely supported. The official AFL twitter account broadcasts not just the traditional forwarding of news articles, but also special features on the AFL website, game scores, results and squad changes prior to each weekend. Back in football land, the official Sydney FC twitter account earlier this year posted a single picture of the new ball to be used in the upcoming 2010-11 A-League season. Whilst linking to a single picture of a ball may not seem that engaging, it offered something different and something unique to the readership, and something that fans would be interested in seeing. But whilst I may follow that twitter account regardless of my club affiliation, not many other fans will be in the same boat, and as such would not have seen that post.
Another club, Melbourne Victory, have one of the best social media presences of the 11 A-League clubs, consisting of an official Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel that are constantly updated with transfer news, videos, photos, promotions and more. Add to that the fact that two of their 2009-10 squad, vice-captain Adrian Leijer and now-departed goalkeeper Mitch Langerak, were persistent ‘tweeters’ throughout the season and off-season, and you have a fairly broad and thorough social media strategy offering unique and engaging content to Victory fans. This strategy is indicitive of a club that takes community involvement very seriously, and as a result they revel in having some of the largest attendances and most passionate and committed fans in the league.
The direction and future of the A-League hinges on the fans and the way in which the league and its clubs interact with those fans. For the FFA, a Facebook fan page is a good start, but a lot more could and should be done. More unique content across multiple media, such as audio of post-match press conferences or video highlights of games, rather than just the predictable and uninspiring links to news articles is a must, and expanding their horizons into other social networking tools, such as Twitter and YouTube, is just as, if not more, important.
Now, it would be ridiculous to say that the FFA and the A-League could solve all their problems through social media and networking. But it’s a good starting point, and it’s something that is relatively easy to achieve.