Clubs must keep pace with social media or become forgotten forces

Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS

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As we roll into week five of the new domestic football season, the usual surge in attendances associated with the start of a new campaign has once again been prevalent throughout the country. However, this year it seems to be different. Traditionally, the early season buzz would soon fade away, and quite rapidly in some cases, with only those maintaining a position at the top of the table maintaining any sort of swell in attendance and interest figures.

However, this season the general excitement levels and interest in the League of Ireland seems to have found an extended breath to kickstart the 2019 campaign. Already this season we have seen sold out signs erected at the likes of Dalymount Park, Richmond Park and this weekend it seems the Brandywell will do like wise as the defending Champions, Dundalk visit Derry City. But why the extended period of seemingly main stream interest in the league?

Many high profile figures within the league, including Greatest League in the World podcast hosts, Con Murphy & Conan Byrne, have exclaimed their belief in the power of social media and the fact there are now more ways than ever to follow the domestic leagues in Ireland. While it can be argued that the likes of podcasts and websites dedicated to the League of Ireland are designed more in for already established followers of the league, it’s hard to deny that the huge volumes of League of Ireland social media content isn’t playing even a minor role in the domestic games new found injection of energy. You simply can not log into Twitter or Facebook without coming across reels of opinions, rants, videos and more from the brilliantly labeled #GreatestLeagueInTheWorld.

However, as lucky as followers of the league are to have websites and media outlets like Extratime.ie, theleagueofireland.ie and all the other great news outlets, who do their best to promote the league, it is the responsibility of the clubs above all others to promote the league in which they compete. For the non-converted who walk among us will not head to outlets such as BetweenTheStripes.ie or Extratime.ie to become interested in our league, instead they will take a direct interest in a club or certain clubs for a variety of reasons. It could be a viral goal clip, such as Gearoid Morrissey’s stunning double at the weekend, or a fantastic promo video, like the efforts produced recently by Shelbourne FC and St.Pat’s, that catches a new comers glance and with the threat of missing out on tickets for a game always a help in building up a big pre-match buzz, it’s absolutely crucial that clubs get their social media houses in order.

In fact, even at this early stage of the season, it’s very easy to see what clubs are gaining from putting in the hard yards in their marketing department and what clubs are being left behind. On last nights Between the Stripes LOI podcast, myself & co-host Jon Brier discussed the use of social media, or perhaps in these cases, the under use of what is a totally free tool. Limerick FC have not only posted incorrect fixture details on multiple occasions this season but there have been numerous embarrassing episodes on the clubs Twitter account. At the weekend, only 400 people turned out for their second home game of the season, a 50% decrease on their opening gate of the campaign, and while that dramatic drop has much more to do with results and style of play, the fact a non-existent social media plan at the club really isn’t helping matters.

To the defense of clubs like Limerick FC, volunteers can be almost impossible to come by at times. However, what are clubs doing to change this situation? With technology so prevalent in today’s society, you’d be shocked what your average TY student can produce in terms of video and Photoshop content. Then at third level, you’ve scores of would be journalists, PR managers, social media experts and marketing students crying out for opportunities to attach to their CV. What better reference for future employers than having played a major role in the businesses and marketing strategy of a semi-professional or professional League of Ireland club?

The message is clear, if League of Ireland clubs don’t seek out the talent required to put the invaluable tool that is social media to use, those very same clubs will be left in the wilderness in what is an evolving and modern league.