Do football clubs need a website?

Opinion article for Blues Talk by Paul Butler – Media and Marketing Director at Burnham FC – 25/08/2022

Well, it’s obvious isn’t? Yes, of course they need a website.

Not necessarily…

Hi, my name is Paul Butler and I’m Media and Marketing Director at Burnham Football Club. Not only have I coached football for many years I’ve also worked in marketing for over 20 years and I was one of the first to embrace social networking here in the UK. I’m not a programmer. However, I was involved at the start of the website boom in the 90s, when outsourced web programming returned to these shores and graphic designers needed UK based web developers to build websites for their customers

Football clubs survived quite happily before Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn created the Internet in August 1976. Back then information was communicated between club and supporter each week on match days along with articles in the programme and local press plus a poster of two in a high street shop window. Even during those early years it was only large corporations that had enough money and resources to own a website.

The main issue was the cost of updates. Website providers sold in websites cheap, alongside an annual contract for regular updates. Depending on the type of business or organisation frequent changes could prove costly. The way around this was to create a website platform that allowed anyone to make updates themselves and ‘Content Management Systems’ (CMS) began to enter the market. Remember WordPress?

Now anyone, including a football club, could communicate regularly with their supporters online using what we refer to as a ‘brochure website’. I acknowledge that not everyone has access to a computer or smart phone. So a mix of the traditional and modern communications methods is still required for clubs even today.

In February 2004 Mark Zuckerburg and his pals launched Facebook. Despite its new ownership, META, and various law suits it remains the daddy of all social networking platforms. No one I knew was on it when I joined in 2007 but then it took a while for mainstream users other than students in the USA to catch on. Other social networks like Twitter then started getting very popular and my way to understand things has always been to try them for myself.

So if you were involved in a football club at this time you may have used a website which you could update yourself using a CMS login to communicate with supporters. With the introduction and subsequent growth and popularity of social networking it was much easier to create an online fan base where messages could be delivered to a specific person. Namely someone following your social profile.

So, what does a website give a football club over a Facebook page for example? Creative licence, complete control, flexibility, opportunities to increase incoming interest through search marketing and access to an audience who are not using social networks I guess. On the other hand, social networking does now allow football clubs an opportunity to tap into advertising using social media. Profiles offer an instant channel for targeted communications, depending on which social platform supporters prefer.

For a club like ours we have supporters and players spanning a massive age range. We use Twitter to communicate all our news and updates, whereas Instagram is used to message younger audiences and those where a visual reference in particularly important. We use LinkedIn to communicate with businesses on topics such as sponsorship and advertising with TikTok is used just for fun (for now).

We can create a very targeted advertising campaign in any, or a combination of many, social platforms. Whereas a website would need a Google Ads campaign to achieve a similar yet very different effect. Remarketing and Amazon are for another day.

If I HAD to choose between using a website or social media for a football club with limited funds I’d choose social media. However, luckily for Burnham Football Club, we can use both website and social media to communicate with our supporters. Keeping those not online informed cost effectively with such an ever changing club, now that’s more of a challenge.

Until next time…

Useful Links:

Burnham FC LinkTree

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