Football May Not Be Coming Home, But Social Media Has

Football May Not Be Coming Home, But Social Media Has
For all the bad press that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram get for spreading bad news and ill will, the past couple of weeks have really shown the positive side of social media. And by that, I mean the positive side of people – after all, people are what drive social media (aside from all the algorithms and technical jiggery-pokery). I can’t help feeling that the backing the England football team received from the nation not only lifted our collective spirits during some rather dark days, but also galvanised the players and management into playing their hearts out for the supporters, rather than in spite of them. Sports people often say they don’t read the press, but the same can’t be said for social media. The majority of the players have been using Twitter to convey their feelings during the World Cup, which seems to have brought us all closer to them. They’d clearly had some serious social media/PR training – perhaps that was part of manager Gareth Southgate’s grand plan to reinvigorate the football team’s relationship with the country. Will this continue after the (arguably pointless) third-place play-off match on Saturday? Time will tell.

Back to business...

Sorry about bringing work into this, but we often talk about businesses using their employees as advocates online, not only to extend the reach of their message, but also to make the employees feel more engaged with the business. It feels like the England management team have done this with the players: encouraging them to show their humility and passion on social media, in the hope that the media and fans will carry a young and inexperienced side through the tournament. This strategy seems to have worked, until the semi-final loss anyway. But just look at the outpouring of support following the loss. Some would say this is very “un-English”, but I disagree. We are a proud nation, but we are afraid of showing it. Hiding behind a keyboard can give people the freedom to express negative views they wouldn’t have the confidence or courage to share face to face; hiding behind a keyboard since the World Cup began has given people the confidence to show their good sides, and we’re all the better for it. How did social media help? It enabled people to share their wit, humour and good-natured feedback on the World Cup progress with people who wouldn’t normally have seen it. Find me someone who hasn’t seen a #ItsComingHome meme…! Crucially, it also encouraged positive content which buried the negative and sometimes downright nasty comments that some cowardly users seem intent on proliferating day in, day out. Good has triumphed over evil, for four weeks at least. My one concern is that, outside of England, our slightly skewed sense of humour has been viewed as arrogance; perhaps digital media can’t properly convey a tone of voice, after all. Social media has always been intended to connect people; to make the world seem at once smaller and larger by enabling users to talk to family and friends in far-off off lands, whilst discovering new things they wouldn’t have ordinarily come across. By making English football fans, and non-fans, feel more invested in our national team, social media so very nearly played a huge role in football coming home. I really hope that this time next week, month, year, we still have a warm feeling about the football team and I can’t help wondering if it will be the same for the rugby team in next year’s Rugby World Cup. I sincerely hope it will. Football may not have come home, but it feels like social media has. Long may it continue. Alex Wright MD Knapton Wright
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