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#UnfollowManUnited movement shows how social media has changed the relationship between fans and there favorite clubs

Manchester United fans are angry about the way things are happening at their beloved club, and they are using social media to show it. There is a growing movement encouraging Manchester United fans to temporarily unfollow the club on all social media accounts. A quick scan of the #UnfollowManUnited hashtag reveals the varied reasons for it.

Historically, the club has won 62% of all Premier League matches. This season, the club has only won 51% of Premier League games. Although the later statistic would be applauded at many a smaller club, Manchester United fans have come to expect nothing short of excellence from the club with a long history of victory.

Clearly, this hashtag is about more than the club's poor form. Fans are not happy with the way the club is being run. Many Manchester United faithful took great umbrage to the fact that the club made an Instagram post about a sock sale while fans are fuming over the club's extremely likely sixth place finish. Players transferred to Manchester United because they wanted to compete in the Champions League. This season, the club's Premier League standing could likely be insufficient for Europa League qualification.

Many argue that the club seems more concerned with commercial endeavors than with putting an enticing product on the field. Hashtag participants believe that unfollowing the club is a way to change a metric that executives will notice. They hope the movement will gain enough traction for club ownership to address the issues most concerning to fans.

While the sentiments of this hashtag may not reflect the feelings of all Manchester United fans, it shows how the Internet has changed the dynamic of interactions between soccer clubs and fans.  Fans may attend matches on the weekends, but social media keeps them connected with the club during the week and even throughout the off season. Fans understand that club's pay attention to their social media statistics, and that social media helps a team make money.

Regardless of the size of the club, no soccer team, or any other sporting organization for that matter, can afford to ignore the free connection with fans available through social media. Beyond simply having a profile on the sites that fans frequent, it is important that the profile is run effectively. Fans expect to see information about their club, but they also want inside information that makes them feel close to the team. Behind the scenes information provided through social media can enhance the matchday experience and make fans who otherwise wouldn't attend feel compelled to buy tickets.

Social media has become far more than a cold marketing tactic for soccer teams. Rather than keeping things strictly professional, some clubs have posted playful banter on their social media profiles. Although envelope pushing posts have left some teams in hot water, the fact that it is even allowed shows that social media is an entirely different beast when compared to traditional marketing.

As is true for all other businesses, teams should be subtle about the way they sale products (or even tickets) on social media. In sports, social media should feel like a personal interaction between a fan and a team. When it starts feeling overly commercialized, fans tend to push back, as can be seen in the case of Manchester United.

Although some clubs have more money than others, social media is one aspect of the game where the playing field is level. Any club can use social media to gain and maintain fans. There are some clubs that would otherwise be unknown who have garnered international fans due to a strong social media presence.

The results of the #UnfollowManUnited hashtag remain to be seen, but the results of a solid social media presence for soccer teams have been proven over and over again.


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