The gap between professional athletes and social media platform has getting wider as much as they want to engage with fans and followers. Recently, Manchester United has announced that they are making their players stop using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. The announcement below is posted on their official website.
Apparently, Man U has removed Twitter accounts for players including Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, and Darren Fletcher, and Facebook page of Giggs and Rio Ferdinand has been erased.
So the question remains: Why is Manchester United, the biggest brand name in club soccer today, abandoning further PR opportunity in social media? One report says Manchester United wants their fan to visit and interact on their official club site www.manutd.com. Also, there have been numerous cases that players cased troubles with their clubs by openly expressing opinions in social networking sites. Another issue is impostors and fake accounts talking as if they are the real players. My guess is Man U is waiting to set guidance for social media use for players, and until then they thought it is safer to keep silence than initiating with rushed decisions, which could trigger criticism from fans.
But this is a sad decision, removing another communication channel between club/players and fans. And surely, clubs for size and value of Manchester United should have predicted and prepared for this to come to their own field. Manchester United has a global presence, and there are large number of search results yielded about the team. In fact, there are over 270,000 fans on unofficial Page on Facebook, and 361,000 people are on unofficial Group. But no one from the team is communicating right now. Man U is missing out on an opportunity to engage with millions of fans around the world everyday. In short run, this action will keep Man U away from creating controversy over players’ mishaps, but, in a long-run, will Man U fans accept their action? (Isn’t this what they really wanted to do with fans?)