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Meet the Admins: a conversation with the social teams running football Twitter

Football fans are some of the most hilarious, cutting and honest social media users around, and nobody knows this better than the teams behind the Twitter accounts, or the ‘admins’ as they are facetiously called. Successfully managing a community of enthusiastic sports fanatics online isn’t for the faint-hearted, so who exactly are these courageous and eager people? Let’s meet the ‘admins’.

The origin story of why they’re called ‘admins’ is one of those social media mysteries that nobody can quite crack – a little bit like Facebook Ad Manager. Nevertheless, the affectionate (this might be a slight reach) name has stuck and, in a summer where they’ve been busier than ever due to the Euros, there’s so much to be learned from their vast skillset.

Scheduling when you’re winning

Community management is a massive part of a social media manager’s remit, but is there another layer added when you’re dealing with football fans?

Michael Russell, head of CityTV and social media at Manchester City, says: “Football is so up and down. When you win, it’s your chance to speak to the world, but when you lose you have to reflect the mood of your fanbase.”

Preparing for all eventualities is an important skill to possess when you work in social, and even more so when it comes to football as “if the performance on the pitch doesn’t happen, we can’t publish some of the great content we’ve created”.

Capturing the passion

Passion is a word the admins use a lot when describing football fans, but capturing this sense of dedication in the content produced for social media takes experience and, to a degree, savviness. A football club will play once or twice a week, which means the rest of the time fans can see the club through a social media window. “Our fans consume game day in so many different ways and every year we show that off,” Russell adds.

An advantage that the admins certainly have is an audience that is already emotionally invested, ride-or-die fans and a compelling history to lean on in times of trouble. Sports fans’ love of the beautiful game is deep-rooted in community and culture, and translating that online will undoubtedly create a feeling of acceptance and belonging.

Win or lose

A massive part of social media is testing out new ideas and being creative, which inevitably means there will be hits and misses. Admins that really push the boundaries often leave themselves “wide open to criticism,” says Paul Rogers, head of digital and social media at AS Roma, who believes clubs should embrace a more risk-reward system.

Receiving criticism from your audience can be nerve-wracking, but dealing with backlash in a constructive way is important. Russell says: “If you listen to your fanbase, you shouldn’t get too much wrong.” Using the ‘monitor, engage, moderate and measure’ approach to community management will ensure your audience stays loyal.

Fans want to feel as connected as possible to their team, and nurturing that relationship online is imperative. Brands that seize the opportunities to engage with their audience to create long-lasting relationships will reap the rewards.

This level of authenticity is a trait football fans appreciate greatly, and communicating with them in this way on social media is crucial as they “will be quick to tell you if you’re off-key,” says Richard Kenyon, director of marketing and communications at Everton.

New opportunities during the Euros

The Euros provided a huge opportunity for brands and football clubs alike to show support and have a lot of fun doing it. Official sponsors of the tournament such as Heineken, TikTok and JustEat all leveraged social media in creative ways to generate brand awareness.

On TikTok alone, the English national team amassed 1.8 million followers and 14.3m likes by utilizing reactive and share-worthy clips from the games. The admins who have embedded team players into their content strategies are scoring high. “Football is such a high-pressured environment; these are the best of the best doing a job that hundreds of millions dream of doing. But equally, they’re just young men and women who are like all those engaging on social,” concludes Russell.

Best social moments of the year so far

Brands, sponsors and broadcasters hyped up football fans throughout the tournament, which created some of the most memorable social moments for the year to date.

From Snickers and Adidas both playing into the England-Scotland rivalry, to Heineken’s Robbie Savage spot, to BBC Creative’s catchy OOH executions, we have seen how social media users have championed and sometimes ripped apart their efforts.

Reactive social media tactics have created some of the most unforgettable moments of Euro 2020, which hasn’t been lost on brands. Social media users are likely to share a funny post, meme or tweet about a football game with their friends. There is an “obvious and measurable media value to this, but the permanent value this has on a brand’s awareness, perception, sentiment and loyalty is immeasurable,” adds Laura Perry, head of creative operations at creative comms agency Tangerine.

Show racism the red card

Sunday’s highly-anticipated Euro 2020 final didn’t go as the England fans had planned, and social media has been a dark place in the aftermath with racist abuse aimed at three Black footballers.

Twitter is said to have removed thousands of tweets and suspended a number of accounts in the last 24 hours. For a long time, there have been calls for social networks to do a better job of regulating hate speech, and the admins behind accounts such as the FA, Arsenal and Manchester United have all posted messages of support to players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. It’s clear that Facebook and co have a long way to go, and change needs to happen now.

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