May 3, 2018Published by: Kieran Moriarty

The BeauGIFul game

On Wednesday night, AS Roma fell short in their Champions League quest as Liverpool beat them 7-6 on aggregate in a thrilling tie. While the Italian side may have failed on the pitch on this occasion, one aspect of the club’s season has been a triumphant success – their social media channels. Despite being based in a city synonymous with ancient history, Roma has won praise and many fans as one of the leading lights of a growing social media movement in football, courtesy of their innovative and fresh content.

Roma's head of digital and social media, Paul Rogers, has been the catalyst for the club’s burgeoning reputation on social. One of his first major moves was to unveil new signing Lorenzo Pellegrini using a clever, FIFA fake-out video, thus creating one of the first ever ‘transfer reveal’ videos. Since then, Roma have carved themselves out a niche for creating entertaining, if sometimes bizarre, transfer announcement posts.

Following on from the popularity of these announcements, the ‘Giallorossi’ have reinforced their position as social trendsetters by using live footage GIFs as part of their live-tweeting of matches and running a #RomaArt hashtag to acquire bold user-generated content from fans. The account’s content is not purely football-focused either, with the club recently curating Spotify playlists of music they have used to celebrate the team’s victories, presenting a unique way for fans to connect with the club.

Conscious of their trend-setting reputation on social, Roma has even been self-aware enough to parody themselves for laughs. As clubs were falling over themselves trying to outdo each other with increasingly bombastic transfer announcement videos, Roma deliberately parodied the monster they helped create with a hilarious, deadpan video of Aleksandar Kolarov that mocked the ridiculousness of the transfer videos.

Fan engagement

It’s clear that competition is extending beyond the pitch as club social media accounts are increasingly seeking new ways to engage with their fans. From player hashtags (#PogBack) to 360-degree player perspective videos, club media managers are pushing the boundaries of a medium that was once an afterthought for clubs to connect with their fanbase.

Of course, this does come with a flipside. Football fans are a fickle and sometimes cruel bunch. Some ideas conceived by enthusiastic social media managers may have worked better in theory than in practice. Check out the mercilessly-ridiculed Alexis Sanchez video announcing the player’s transfer to Manchester United, for example. Or Tottenham Hotspur’s bizarre post to announce the signing of Victor Wanyama.

Nevertheless, club social media accounts are generally a force for good. As the globalisation of football continues apace, these accounts are often the primary way for fans to engage with the team they support. As the modern mouthpiece for the club, it’s crucial that these social media accounts are in tune with their fanbase, demonstrating knowledge of team history and conveying the right tone of voice. It’s not just about posting team sheets and results, although that still remains a huge part of a social media manager’s remit.

So yes, Roma may not have won the Champions League. But they still had the last laugh on social with a tongue-in-cheek response to their valiant failure. Here’s hoping more elite clubs can harness the power of social media to connect with loyal supporters and provide entertainment to football fans around the world.

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