Football Journalism: Microblogging on Matchday

Twitter — Getty Images

Unwittingly, I have been a microblogger from the age of thirteen when I first downloaded Snapchat to talk to my friends back in Secondary School. Since then, I consider myself to be a microblogger on multi-platforms, from posting about a job experience on LinkedIn, sharing my thoughts about a football game on Twitter, to creating a caption for my new Instagram post. And you, the reader of this blog, are, also, probably a microblogger in some capacity.

Unlike these blog posts on Medium which take up a longer form of writing, microblogging is the opposite, with the message being shared instantly. It has changed news consumption, for example, since people can now gain an overview and understanding of news items at a glance. In a way, sites like Twitter have turned breaking news over to the hands of the average citizen, making them the content creator. According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of people say they get at least some of their news from social media, and 20% do so often.

A microblog is a short piece of content designed for quick audience interactions. Microblogging is a combination of instant messaging and content production. With a microblog, you share short messages with an online audience to improve engagement.

Short microblogging messages appear in various content formats, including audio, video, images and text. The trend for microblogging began when social media emerged to provide quicker ways for companies to engage customers.

Microblogging means journalists can interact with their audience effectively and connect with them instantly. For journalists, this often means they can better capture their audiences’ attention as far less information is being consumed.

Microblogging in Football

Arsenal — Getty Images

Recently, football clubs and journalists have been using the tool of microblogging on social media to reach out to their fanbase, Twitter being the hub for short-formed messages. Due to Twitter having a cap of 280 characters, journalists have to be concise when posting content, making sure they are providing adequate amounts of information in the word count provided. Gone are the days of waiting until the match report after a game to find out the significant moments of a game. Now fans are kept up-to-date in real-time.

Microblogging for football clubs means that they can post frequently on their social platforms which are key for keeping fans in the loop with the daily goings-on at the club. Because of the nature of a football game, time cannot be spent developing content as it should be posted instantly. a balance needs to be found between longer blogs, videos and infographic posts and these shorter posts which still allows for detail and entertainment, but in a concise manner.

Microblogging is apt for fast-paced environments, creating share-time sensitive information. All it takes is a quick tweet to tell the audience about a goal and other crucial updates, which is a vital tool when live-tweeting a match.

Twitter, also, has a hashtag feature where tweets are collated in one specific place. This is useful for football journalists, as most clubs have their own unique hashtag. Therefore, when live-tweeting games, tweets usually contain the relevant hashtags for both teams playing. This is effective for engagement as it means fans of the club know where to find information about their team and the game being played, whilst also providing an area of discourse to discuss and exchange opinions with other users. This opportunity for two-way interactions between fans and their clubs is facilitated by Twitter, as it allows users to interact through comments, retweets, liking and more. Used correctly, a microblog facilitates greater engagement than a traditional post.

Photos and videos can also be added to accompany the text in tweets. This makes them look more eye-catching to Twitter users and is likely to increase engagement due to the variety of content used.

Craig Bratt — Exeter City Media Officer

To explore the use of microblogging further, I reached out to Craig Bratt, the Match Day Media Officer at Exeter City. Craig has many roles at the club, one of them being live-tweeting of the matches on Twitter. Below are the questions I posed to him and his interesting responses that highlight the importance of microblogging on matchday, as well as offering insight into how microblogs are constructed to effectively communicate with fans and some of the difficulties in doing so.

  • Can you explain the merits of microblogging of match days for fans who can’t attend games, especially in the current climate?

1) It’s hugely important to microblog during a game to give fans a really clear picture of what is going on during the game, especially if they aren’t able to watch on iFollow or listen to it on the radio. Putting as much detail into a post as possible gives a clear and chronological written commentary of the game itself.

  • How important do you think it is for your personality to come through in the tweets?

2) For me, putting personality into a tweet is important because it connects the club with its supporters. On a personal level, I try my best to interact with fans as much as possible. If there is a quiet moment in a game I will perhaps comment on the weather, a certain supporter, or something going on outside the ground (fans playing music on SJ Road for example)

  • Is it hard to capture a lot of information about the game, but still be concise at the same time?

3) Often when describing the action it’s hard not to sound like you’re rambling on, especially when discussing a goal. Specifically on Twitter you’re limited to 280 characters so you always have to judge best how to make the most of them. It’s important to remember than sometimes on social media, less is more. A simple goal tweet can often be more effective than describing the goal pass by pass.

  • On match days is it important to incorporate visuals in your tweets like photos and videos?

4) Videos and images are a huge asset to social media posts as they add another layer to your content. It also makes your content much more sharable, such as a goal celebration images. People consume information in different ways which is why we post both a team sheet image and also a video of me reading out the team news, as we feel this covers all bases.

  • Do you feel interacting with fans is good for engagement and your reputation?

5) Fan interaction is key to good marketing of a football club. It connects the fans to their club and shows them the human side, especially at the lower levels of the game. You simply don’t see the Premier League sides interacting with their fans.

My experience microblogging in Football

Reporting for Exeter City

I am fortunate enough to be working alongside Craig in the social media team at Exeter City FC. Over the last few months, I’ve been microblogging, providing updates on the Exeter City Facebook page during games where my posts have the potential to reach up to 70,000 people. My tasks are to provide updates during the game, including goals, the half-time score, full-time score and using photos provided by an external agency. Here are my thoughts from my experience so far and what I have learnt.

Preparation is key

Research before the game is key for me to provide the best content for my audience, which in turn drives better engagement. Knowing about both teams’ form coming into the match, in-form players to look out for and the importance of the game means I am prepared and can deliver the content in the correct tone of voice.

Keeping up with the game

In my first few games, I found keeping up with the pace and updating the game a challenging task. Because fans could receive information on the game from other sources or social media platforms, I had to make sure I didn’t fall behind and try to post content just after it happened in real-time. Else this could affect engagement, as if someone has seen the information before, they are less likely to interact with it.

Accuracy & Concise

As some fans can’t attend games, I need to report accurately about what is happening so they can feel connected to the game. Another important factor was to be concise in my writing and post about significant moments in the best way I can. I found that less was more in the length of my post, as fans don’t want to be reading for a significant period just to find out who scored. As fans may be on the go, mobile-friendly content is critical so they can get the best user experience. Consumers find it difficult to interact with lengthy posts on mobile, so conciseness is key.

Personality

As I covered more games, I developed greater confidence and knowledge, understanding the audience more and what content received better engagement. This meant that I could start to experiment with my posts and sway away from the more basic narrative which only provided fans with the bare minimum. For example, posts of a player performing well with a witty caption usually was received well, helping to break down the barriers between clubs and their fans.

Visuals

Photos were an important part of the content I posted, as it gave fans a better view of the game. From a collection of photos taken for the club, I would choose the best ones to fit the narrative of the match. Goal GIFs of the players usually get high levels of engagement, and photos of an in-form player with the right caption would also get good interaction. Visuals add another element to the audiences’ timeline of the game, keeping them entertained and well-connected to the match.

Example of my microblogging work on Facebook

Promoting my Blogs

More recently, I have been microblogging to promote these blog posts on my social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For me, Instagram was where I saw the best interaction with my audience. I decided upon a consistent theme when posting which made my posts look more aesthetically pleasing and each post was accompanied by an engaging caption. This created a professional look which, hopefully, meant that my audience was more inclined to see my posts on their feed.

I carried this style over to Facebook and Twitter, promoting my blog posts with an engaging caption and picture but it was hard to bring across a theme on these platforms due to the nature of their layouts. Twitter was useful as I could use relevant hashtags with my posts, which led to various accounts liking and retweeting my posts, even those I didn’t follow. This sometimes created a dialogue with users where we discussed the content of my posts. This feature is hard to replicate on Instagram and Facebook but helped drive engagement on my Twitter feed.

Like multimodality, discussed in my previous blog post, microblogging has revolutionised the way information is shared and consumed on social media. In the football sphere, it has been a tool utilised by journalists to keep fans up to date instantly and feel even more connected to their favourite teams, something which is even more important in this current climate. My experience with microblogging has developed to a more professional approach. I am still learning more skills to become an even better journalist and will continue to refine these techniques going forward — my placement with Exeter City being the perfect opportunity to gain further experience microblogging in the football sphere.

Make sure to follow my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for extra content, and to make sure you never miss a blog post!

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