Glenn Miller, Strategic Partnerships at Facebook, speaks to sportindustry.biz about the platform’s plans for 2014 and working with football clubs to improve their online presence.
Could you tell us a little bit about your role in Strategic Partnerships at Facebook?
I started last June after moving from Los Angeles and my role here is to look after our entertainment and sport partnerships. Our aim is to work closely with public figures, athletes, clubs, musicians etc. to help them utilise the platform and generate more authentic content and then - by doing so - connect that content with more fans on the platform. We are really driving home the content generation.
Being the largest global platform, we want to help people reach their global audience. In the UK we have worked with Chelsea, David Beckham, Wimbledon and the NBA games that were played over here to make it easier to create and publish content, that’s the big push now.
You worked with Chelsea, who celebrated a big social media landmark just before Christmas, how does that partnership work?
That was actually our first event with Chelsea and we have been working together on ramping up towards the celebration of 20 million fans on their Facebook page, so as they approached the milestone they created some great video content featuring the players. We have been working with them on rolling out that content and developing a Facebook stadium that allowed fans to connect on a feed with Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, who took questions during the live stream.
As for other Premier League clubs on Facebook, do you think there is pressure for them to keep up with each other in the social media-sphere?
We have been working closely with a number of different clubs and league across EMEA and what we are certainly noticing is a desire from teams to gain that international reach. From a global perspective, most clubs have a strong presence on Facebook and we then work with them on how they can properly reach and effectively engage with their audiences.
Looking ahead, what new innovations has Facebook got lined up in 2014?
There are a lot of things in the pipeline, as always, especially with the FIFA World Cup happening this year. There are so many ways for sports figures and clubs to use social media to reach their fans. We worked with Andy Murray during Wimbledon, staging a live Q&A on his Facebook page which was such a success that he came back after he had won the competition for another session, where he also launched his Instagram account.
He brought out a book earlier this year, and Facebook was the exclusive platform where he debuted content from his book. There is a 1,200-word exert - usually reserved for a newspaper, for instance - that featured on his page. That’s a good example of how to tap in to the 1.2 billion people on Facebook, and how times are changing to compensate for that.
Speaking of the vast amount of people on Facebook and social media, Southampton joined Snapchat last month. Does this dissolve the social fanbase for Facebook, or does this kind of social media development help other platforms by driving people to social media?
We welcome football clubs, athletes, public figures etc to engage more with social media as much as possible. Through that we get to see what works and what doesn’t so I don’t see it as a negative, I welcome greater social media engagement.
Finally, what’s more important for a club; the number of fans/likes/followers they have or the level of engagement?
I actually think it’s a combination of both because you want more fans and likes of course, but you also need to have great engagement around content. Your fans need to be engaged in the long term so that you can motivate them to go get tickets, buy the merchandise, or whatever else you want, and be a part of your story.
The fans are looking up to the players and the club to inspire them. We have also been working closely with Arsenal over the festive period and this Christmas they uploaded videos of the Arsenal reindeer to their Facebook page, which had their fans guessing which player was dressed as a reindeer. Over the course of the week on Facebook and Instagram they gave clues before the big reveal around Christmas.
It’s that sort of engagement that really resonates with online fans and you can see it in the numbers too. The page has grown to over 17 million people, who are now engaging with that content, so as for quantity or quality, more often than not you can’t have one without the other.