Creative Soccer Culture

Why We Need More Footballers Running Their Own Social Accounts

Social media. While you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, away from the dark anonymity that it provides to the trolls of this world it can also have the exact opposite effect, lifting the veil on the superstars of the game that we watch and admire from afar… but only if they’re trusted at the controls… and that’s a dangerous proposition in itself.

We all know the pitfalls of social media these days. Just ask the likes of Victor Anichebe,  Christian Benteke and countless others who have fallen victim to the old cut ’n paste jobs. Then there’re the ill-judged messages that will return to haunt players down the line. But while the early days of platforms such as twitter gave us the glory of professional footballers attempting to get to grips with how best to use them, coming across completely unfiltered, a la Wayne Rooney, that time has sadly past. Now control of these accounts is being managed more and more by PR and social media teams, with every message being vetted and sanitised (even that can backfire though, as John Stones and more recently Joe Hart can attest to). 

However, what we are now starting to see is a generation of players that have grown up with social media; they know the perils of an ill-judged tweet and they are more equipped to navigate these platforms. So in amongst all of the generic “Great result today, we go again Wednesday” messages that tick the box of fan interaction but that, in reality, mean absolutely nothing, you get an account that is actually managed by the player themselves. Doesn’t sound extraordinary, right? We all manage our own accounts daily. But what it does is it peels away some of the layers of cotton wool from these characters, giving fans deeper insight into the people behind the players.

There’s something refreshing about knowing that, following news of a knee injury that’s going to keep him out of the game for several weeks, Declan Rice is just chilling at home and admiring the action in the Champions League, like the rest of us. Ditto for Jack Grealish, who, despite enjoying all the plaudits that his performances this season have deserved, is still not above calling out those that he admires. These are two of England’s best footballers, both sure to go to the Euros this summer if fit, and they’re both only too happy to take control of their own social media accounts to speak their minds.

The shining example of this over the last 12 months is Marcus Rashford. The United striker has fully leveraged his social accounts in his campaign against child hunger, yielding some extraordinary results. But further to this, he has also provided an open avenue for people to connect with him, showing a level of humility that is sometimes not immediately apparent with some of the games' other global stars. 

The other perspective though is that of the influencer. For that we need look no further than the world’s most followed Instagram celebrity, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Juve man commands power, influence and respect, and his account serves as an engagement channel but more importantly as a commercial platform. Charging nearly $1 million per paid post, he earns more from social media than he does from actually playing football. It’s madness, but who can blame the guy. But what you don’t really get from his account is any feeling for his character; what game did he watch last night? Who impressed him? It’s a very sterile account, giving out only what it needs, but doing so very effectively. What it lacks though is a sense of authenticity.

Being authentic is the key to connecting with fans on an organic level, and that in turn will create a far more engaging profile to follow, elevating what has otherwise become something of a bland space. Much like real life, it’s about knowing what to say and when to say it, listening to that internal filter, because if you do say the wrong thing you can guarantee someone will have taken a screenshot. So lets trust these players a little more and let them show a their human side. What's the worst that can happen...

With great power comes great responsibility. But more unfiltered Wayne Rooney and less Cristiano Ronaldo, yeah?

Daniel Jones

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