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Southampton FC drives digital engagement

Premier League Southampton FC is a football club known for bringing its personality to fans on social media.

Its digital and social production teams are dedicated to doing things a bit differently when it comes to engaging with fans online.

Southampton FC is a long-term partner of cloud video platform Grabyo for social video production. Grabyo’s tools are used to publish video content in real-time, ensuring its content is highly relevant and part of the current conversation on social media.

The flexibility that Grabyo gives the Saints, combined with the club’s keen eye for trends, has enabled it to create successful content strategies for each social platform. The club has built highly engaged audiences across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and most recently on the fastest growing platform of 2020 – TikTok.

The Saints march in TikTok

Southampton FC’s light-hearted approach to content and viral trends has enabled the club to seamlessly integrate TikTok to its social content mix.

At the beginning of November 2020, the club reacted to reaching the top of the Premier League table for the first time in its history, early in the 2020/21 season, with a tweet that read ‘Stop the Count’, a reference to Donald Trump’s remarks during the US election happening at the time.

The post went viral, reaching over 490,000 engagements on Twitter. Many other sports outlets and social accounts amplified the post with reactions and replies. It now ranks as the most popular tweet of the season from a Premier League club.

The tweet then featured in one of Southampton’s TikTok videos a couple of weeks later, posted as a reaction to the club dropping from the top spot. The TikTok video reached over 200,00 views.

Tom Coull, audio visual manager at Southampton FC said:

Our TikTok presence has been an extension of our overall content strategy. We want to inform and engage our fans, but also entertain them. Our general tone across all our social media platforms is quite light-hearted. We don’t mind poking fun, especially at ourselves, but we try to do it in a good-natured way.

It’s about the timing

Success on TikTok shares similarities with other social platforms – speed to market matters. Trends fade as quickly as they appear on TikTok, publishing relevant, entertaining content in real time is the key to engagement. Being late to the party makes it much harder to be seen.

Southampton FC leverages its partnership with Grabyo to collaborate on the creation and editing of TikTok content, publishing natively on the TikTok platform.

The club uses Grabyo to simplify the process of identifying an opportunity for a TikTok video. During the creation of TikTok videos, the team are connected using Grabyo’s cloud platform as a centralised workspace for collaborative asset management and content approvals.

Gareth Capon, Grabyo CEO, said:

Southampton have been early adopters on new social platforms and this approach has resonated with fans. We are proud to support the club in pushing the envelope and delivering to its fans on social. Using our platform, there are no limitations on the creativity of its talented content team – they are able to get content out there at the right time, to the right platforms. It has been great to watch the success on TikTok, with creative options for video that are perfect for mobile.

Different strokes

While the basic principles of social media publishing apply to TikTok, the general tone of content differs from the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

One of the key differences in Southampton FC’s audience on TikTok is that it doesn’t engage with the club’s channel on in the same way as with other digital platforms. Fans browse TikTok platform for fun, light-hearted content, to be entertained.

This allows the Saints to engage with fans much more creatively and control the tone of its channel more effectively. Coull explains:

We look for ways to make people laugh, or provide highlight-reel plays that will make people pause in their feeds. For example, if we do lose a match, we are still able to post a fantastic bit of skill from one of our players on TikTok, and fans will enjoy it because it’s exactly the type of content that works on this platform.

With more freedom, Southampton FC is able to keep up with ever-changing trends on TikTok, participating in hashtags, replying to fan comments, joining in with the latest memes and giving the Saints’ channel an authentic, human feel.

The aims

TikTok is opening up an important demographic for sports clubs – Gen Z. The platform is allowing Southampton FC to reach a new audience and build affinity with the club among the youngest of football fans. The club’s social listening strategy is one of its main focus areas in growing its TikTok presence. Coull said:

As TikTok is our newest social platform, we want to continue to grow our following on the platform, as well as growing the size of our engaged audience. Observing the constantly changing trends and popular topics on TikTok is a vital component of this, along with directly engaging with fans via the comments section – something that we hope can help separate us from other official accounts on the platform.

This strategy has led to the club growing its TikTok follower base by over 170K in less than a year. Capon added:

Southampton FC has done a fantastic job in cultivating its TikTok presence. Its content team understands the intricacies of social media and it sets them apart from many other clubs. The team have the right tools to deliver content rapidly, in the way fans want, and the results speak for themselves.

Southampton FC approaches each of its social channels with a specific strategy and aims to create bespoke content for the different audiences that use each platform. Each of these channels contributes to bringing The Southampton Way to life through exciting, engaging and high-quality content across all platforms.

Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC