Glory Glory Man Utd: Can they beat Facebook at its own game?

Manchester United have struck a deal with Sapient Nitro to become their global digital agency and as part of that deal, word has it they’re going to create a social media platform that will allow the club to engage directly with their global online fan base of nearly 660 million.

Ignoring the numbers, because I think they are nonsense, the concept is very interesting and very forward thinking.

Businesses gain plenty of benefits from engaging with their fans via the world’s most prominent social media platforms, but for me, once you surpass a certain fan/follower threshold in certain industries; you have to start thinking a bit more selfishly.

How can your business start harness that passion and turn it into something of more value?

Facebook gives you some interesting base data on your fan base, but it doesn’t really give you much else in the way of statistics. It also doesn’t make it easy to do much with those highly engaged fans. Twitter is a fantastic place to converse on a one to one basis, especially in the world of sport, but again, you never really own the data, you don’t really know much about the people you’re engaging with and because the platform is someone else’s, so is the really interesting data and so is the flexibility.

Someone else owns your conversation. Someone else is profiting from your fans. Someone else could potentially switch you off at any time (I know, I know, that last point was very dramatic).

If you’re a brand like Manchester United, you have the ability to move your fans wherever you want. If you can move the bulk of your fans behind a wall into a bespoke Manchester United community, you’re on to a winner.

Your ability to track data is greatly increased, there are no strict rules on competitions and you can incentivise an already enthused community to keep on coming back. Hey, you could even integrate the established social media platforms into your community! The possibilities are endless, the ROI far more measurable and far easier to influence than it would be in the major standard social channels.
Manchester United owning the conversation is the key here, what they do once they’re in control is when we’ll see exactly how social they’re planning to be. A move many will watch with anticipation, a move I’m sure many of the big boys will look to follow if it’s a success.