Oversatt av Andreas Rønningen Sandbu.
Andy Mitten column in English:
In January 2010, Manchester United issued an official announcement on Manutd.com that none of their players had profiles on social networking sites.“The club wishes to make clear that … fans encountering any web pages purporting to be written by United players should treat them with extreme scepticism. Any official news relating to Manchester United or its players will be communicated via ManUtd.com.”
Keeping potential valuable content in house was one issue, but the announcement came at a time when there was a flurry of fake Facebook accounts for United players, which the more gullible members of our support were quick to accept as the real thing.
United were particularly nervous about social networking, though it would have been amusing to see a club official trying to explain the concept of Twitter or Facebook to Sir Alex Ferguson.
It was believed that the club didn’t have a Facebook page because they could not control the content and all the ‘Glazer Out’ comments which would ensue. Fast forward a year and United have a Facebook page with over 8.5 million fans. The club use valuable pitchside advertising space to promote the Facebook site and it’s working. The Reds have overtaken Real Madrid, who have 7.9 million fans and are quickly catching FC Barcelona, who have 8.8 million, on the way to becoming the most popular team on Facebook. Manchester City have just 350,0000 – about 10,000 for every year since they won a trophy.
Any criticism on United’s page is lost in a flurry of feedback. When the not earth shattering draw for the FA Cup 5th round paired United with non-league Crawley Town, 20,000 people clicked to say that they liked the news and 4,000 people commented on it in the 36 hours after the draw. Any dissenting voices were barely noticeable from contributors around the world saying that ‘Hernandez/Berbatov/Giggs is great.’
United are far more comfortable nowadays about their social media presence, now they have recognised its huge PR potential. There’s also an official Twitter account which is updated from Old Trafford and has 180,000 followers and counting. Among them are Rio Ferdinand, whose own Twitter page has far more followers and is likely to pass through the half a million mark this week. How quickly things have changed.
Ferdinand is in the minority among players. Fellow defender Johnny Evans has a Twitter account which he rarely uses…and that’s about it. A couple of fringe first team players recently opened accounts, but they were advised to quickly close them down. Talking about a night out in London when you should be trying to establish yourself as a Premier League player isn’t the wisest thing to do.
United cannot control what the players do for the 20 hours a day they are not at Carrington and it seems the club are happy for established players to tweet, but not emerging players, whose fledgling reputations could be easily damaged.
Ferdinand appears addicted to Twitter and has made over 4,000 tweets, with every nuance of his life covered. Newspapers, radio and TV regularly quote his tweeted opinions, while his online jousting with the likes of Robbie Savage (150,000 followers) makes news. Ferdinand tweets about anything. There are some unintentionally hilarious tweets where he writes about waking up by his ‘Lil one’ (son) at six a.m. and considers giving him a cold shower, plus amusing comments about his team mates, such as the number of presents (with pictures) which Ji Sung Park receives.
Any knockers are simply brushed off as ‘eggs’, such as the celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan who tried to be smart with Ferdinand and highlight his poor punctuation. Rio gave as good as he got and came out of that well, though other albeit well intentioned tweets made followers cringe – like giving a shout out to the New Zealand miners trapped down a shaft, who, by that time, had all tragically died.
If the launch of his own online magazine is anything to go by, Ferdinand appears keen to be viewed as more than a footballer, much like the American rap musicians he idolised are now ‘brands’ aside from their music.
Ferdinand’s football clearly isn’t suffering and he feels that he can connect directly with fans rather than be misquoted. In that sense he uses social networking well and has received praise for his intelligence and concern about social issues in general. But, as far as Manchester United is concerned, he is the exception rather than the rule and looks set to stay that way.
Andy Mitten er en velkjent og respektert journalist fra Manchester. Han er blant annet redaktør for fanzinet United We Stand. Mitten vil skrive en fast spalte for united.no annenhver uke.