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What’s my favourite social platform? Well its Twitter, seeing as you asked. An awesome platform and you can do so much with it. Set up a programme like Tweetdeck correctly you can be at almost any event on the planet, sell your services or products, keep an eye on what people are saying about you and raise your own profile as well as your brands. You can even have a one to one with almost any company (those who are monitoring their Twitter handle). All in real-time. How can anyone not like Twitter?
One of the growing trends on Twitter is that of the “Twitter Chat”. An awesome activity that allows real-time discussions, open to anyone following the chat’s hashtag. Chats that are largely sector based more often than not bring about a good discussion with debate, opinion and knowledge sharing. Most are a success and worth following. However, there is a very small element of leaving the doors open to a certain amount of “trolling”. More often than not this can be ignored.
And then there are Twitter Chats run by football clubs. These are a whole different kettle of fish and are sheer genius in their own right. From a watcher’s point of view these could ultimately be the most entertaining part of Twitter. I adore them to the point where I get excited when I hear one is going to take place because I know what is coming. These are epic fails waiting to happen and perfect examples of how a good intention on social media can seriously work against you. Football club chats are an extreme example; they are a lesson to anyone who is looking to hold such an event as to “how not to run a Twitter chat”.
Now, no football club, player or manager has ever suffered as a result of one of these chats. The reputation of a football club or player isn’t based on how successful they are at social media (YET), but they should provide food for thought about how you conduct a social media activity.
I have never, ever seen a successful one. Every single one is trolled beyond anything you have ever seen before. The humour however is brilliant. Whatever you think of football fans, there are times when the humour used to put another team or player down is just perfectly cutting and funny. So give football fans a platform such as Twitter and a hashtag to play with and it is relentless. The latest one which led me to writing this was the #AskHarry chat.
This gave Queens Park Rangers fans the opportunity to put their questions to their manager Harry Redknapp. Those not in the know about Harry Redknapp, I think it is fair to say that he is a figure who is laughed at by those who don’t like him. This was recently made worse by a tax evasion case he was recently involved with (and subsequently acquitted of any charges). As part of his defence in that trial he claimed he couldn’t read, write and didn’t know how to use email or send a text message. He also opened up a bank account in his dog’s name, and openly started trying to recruit members for his backroom staff ready for when he got the England job – a job he was never even interviewed for. None of these things of course helped and just provided more ammo for rival fans – you get the picture. So guess what happened.
And boy did it happen. The amount of trolling was amazing. At the point of writing this the chat finished 2 hours ago and my stream following the hashtag is still going mad with updates. At no point did I see one genuine question out of the thousands that must have scrolled down the feed at a rate of knots. Looking at QPR’s official Twitter account (which is where the questions were being answered) I saw that in the end QPR shut this short with only around 12 questions answered. #FAIL.
The problem is these chats will never work. Football is a stupidly opinionated sport. If you support a team by default you pretty much dislike all other teams, their players and managers. Within the sport there are some seriously high profile figures. These are usually the people invited to take part in these activities. As you can imagine these are hated by rival fans. Supply them with a hashtag that means they can abuse directly and you have the ultimate recipe for disaster. But this is a lesson football clubs simply are not learning. Yes it’s great that they are trying to bridge the gap between the club and the fans by using social media, however this is one activity that will never work successfully if it involves a figure that naturally stirs up a reaction from rival fan bases. Had QPR decided to hold a Twitter chat for one of their players, the chances are that it would have been a success.
I’m a football fan and I would find it hard to name over four current QPR players. That isn’t disrespectful, it’s just a fact and most fans would be in the same boat. They have dropped a division and as such aren’t so much in the public eye or subject to the persistent media focus that is Sky Sports. So the chances of the chat being trolled are low.
However, ask your highly controversial manager to take part and you have a problem. And they did. This was a PR nightmare for QPR, who totally misjudged the entire situation. And it’s the perfect example of a marketing team coming up with a good idea and running with it without thinking it through. At no point did anyone bring up the question – what is the worst thing that could happen?
QPR are certainly not alone. Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal have all recently had Twitter chats hijacked and ruined. You can even look beyond football; British Gas and Ryan Air have both recently misjudged the situation. All of this simply highlights the importance of planning ahead. As I mentioned earlier, at no point did any of these people ask the question “what is the worst that can happen?”
However, this has to be the first question you ask if you are planning a social media activity like this. What IS the worst that can happen? Will the entire thing be ruined? Is the risk too big? How is this going to make you look as a company or brand? These are all such important questions and every online business should be asking them. Social Media is great and provides so many awesome options, but at the same time it can go so drastically wrong.
The issue you then have is that it is all in the public domain, everyone can see it. The #AskHarry activity is still going on as I speak but we have now got to the point where people are recommending that others start to follow the hashtag for some Twitter entertainment. None of this of course will affect Harry Redknapp or QPR, as I have mentioned, they are a football club and a manager, what happens on the pitch is far more important. But take this as a really quick and simple lesson. PLAN everything you do on social media. Don’t let it put you off, remember #AskHarry is an extreme example just see what could happen. Mike Essex recently wrote on how to hold a successful Twitter Chat looking at the actual chat should be structured which should also give you some valuable pointers.
Just make sure you ask that question first: What is the worst thing that could happen? If you are not sure #AskHarry
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