Just like any other media, it is important to evaluate the efficacy of a sports organisation’s social network efforts at various points of the consumer journey.

There is little concrete information on how football clubs across the GCC utilise the various platforms and their relation to goals set by those clubs. However, it is likely that Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia leads the way in terms of fan engagement, with 4.24 million followers on Twitter alone.

But regardless of their social reach, the ability of an organisation to understand the motivation of fans and how they interact with the brand is significant, according to Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford business school at the University of Salford near Manchester in north-west England.

“Social media appears to be very popular in the Middle East and it therefore offers a great deal of potential to clubs.

“What clubs have to understand is what motivates fans to use social media and what do they want when using it. If a club can understand this, then they will be well placed to establish a strong position and profile in the social media space.”

As social media managers strive towards understanding their worth in terms of social media value and raising the bar on fan engagement, for Prof Chadwick, the successful sports organisations are the ones that manage to uniquely configure their business around their online presence.

“We are already seeing some consolidation in the market, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter dominating. And the services they offer are becoming increasingly similar,” he says.

As such, the challenge for football clubs is to understand how they can create a differential advantage through social media that delivers value to their existing activities, he adds.

“Beyond this, clubs should be looking towards the next generation of social media that enables them to draw closer to key target audiences, most notably the millennial generation and those that follow-on from them.”

Although analytic tools across the various networks display metrics that predict the quantity and quality of a consumer’s journey within those networks, with the availability of enormous amounts of data the need for a football club or other sporting entity to truly identify goals and objectives prior to a campaign is extremely important.

“Success is measured in follower growth, tickets sold – we have tracking links – and engagement,” says Daniel Robertson, the digital content and social media manager at the Major League Soccer club FC Dallas.”

An example he cites is, he says, one of the most interesting project he has worked on with the club. “I think my favourite was our ‘Vote For Tesho’ campaign in 2014 where we created a whole campaign based around forward Tesho Akindele to win rookie of the year.

“We made videos spoofing the Napoleon Dynamite movie, created shareable social graphics for our fans and infographs sent to the media, which ended up winning Tesho the rookie of the year award.”

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