Twitter is where news happens. And it’s where it happens first. Usually. Roman Filipowicz suggests filtering the wheat from the chaff for your best transfer news this summer…
Since its creation and launch in 2006, the social media site Twitter has become more and more a part of daily life. Originally seen as nothing more than ‘somewhere to find out what celebrities have had for lunch’, its popularity and influence have steadily grown. It is now a mouthpiece for businesses, a way of engaging with customers and a companion to TV programmes – to the point where they often display their recommended hashtag for discussions before the programme starts. But what does it mean for football and fans?
Communication. Speculation. Controversy.
Most football clubs — Manchester United excluded — now have an official Twitter feed. Nottingham Forest is no different. Indeed, @Official_NFFC is one of the most followed accounts of all the Championship clubs. The official account is the mouthpiece of the club, tweeting about results, signings, offers and other club-related business and news.
What’s different about Forest is that our chairman and majority owner Fawaz al Hasawi has a personal Twitter account. He’s not the first Forest chairman to have done this — the late Nigel Doughty briefly interacted with fans on Twitter. It was a brave thing to do but, coming as it did at a difficult time for the club – during Steve McClaren’s ill-fated tenure – it didn’t last.
That example highlights perfectly what a double-edged sword social media can be. It’s a great method of communicating directly to the fans. But it also allows fans to communicate directly with you. That’s great when things are going well. Last summer, for example, saw Forest fans revelling in the phenomenon of the ‘Fawaz tweet,’ when al Hasawi would usurp the official website to announce new signings.
However, when times aren’t so good – think January 2013 for example – those same fans won’t hesitate to make their feelings known. Some do so in a reasonable and respectful manner. But, unfortunately, others interact in a way that is frankly unacceptable. Fawaz made mistakes last season, there’s no doubt about that, but some of the abuse that he received on Twitter made me embarrassed to be a Forest fan.
But it’s the void before any official confirmation that has quickly become a hot topic on Twitter — the rumour-mongers who spread the gossip and stories. Many fans like to know what’s going on behind the scenes at their club but, obviously, there’s only so much the club can say. TV channels and websites such as Sky Sports News help to satisfy our hunger for information, but, if you want more, Twitter is a great place to go. Or is it?
There are some sources, such as reputable sports journalists, who might post the odd nugget of information, but again they will be limited in what they can say. So, this takes us to the legendary realm of The Insider. The One with Sources. The In The Know.
Ahh yes, the In The Know. A sure-fire sign of these people on Twitter will be a user name containing the words ‘rumour,’ ‘agent’ or ‘ITK.’ They’ll follow few people but be followed by many, all hungry for the inside track on the latest signing. They’ll report that they ‘understand’ or ‘are hearing’ that player X will sign for club Y. When asked how they know they’ll say ‘I can’t divulge my sources.’ And they’ll more often than not be totally and utterly wrong. On they occasions that they’re right, they’ll make sure the world knows it.
There are undoubtedly people who do know the inside workings of football clubs and transfer dealings. But they’d be foolish indeed to share these details with all and sundry on social media. The ‘ITKs’ are not these people. Indeed last summer’s revelation that @FootballAgent49 was a complete fake confirms that many, if not most, are bored school kids.
Then, finally, we have the players. Many professional footballers now have Twitter accounts, usually with thousands, or in some cases millions of followers. But is it worth following them?
If you’re looking for information, or even interaction, from them, then you’ll probably be disappointed. From what I’ve seen, many of the footballers talk only to other players or celebrities, which is fair enough as they are the circles they move in. When they’re not doing this, they’ll often be promoting their other businesses, debating the merits of various films or CDs, or, often, ranting.
I guess it must be difficult to read some of the stuff that is posted about you if you’re not playing well, but reacting angrily to it will do nothing but further antagonise the fans (see Ishmael Miller). A thick skin is definitely a pre-requisite for a footballer on social media.
And a quick look at the #nffc timeline will give you everything anybody is saying about the club — chances are it will be fans speculating about the latest rumours placed by an ITK agent…
Still, despite all that Twitter is the first place you’ll hear any football news this summer. Just be careful who you trust.
You can follow Roman on Twitter: @fritzromanov
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