MONDAY 10 JUN 2013 9:02 AM

RISKS AS HIGH AS REWARDS IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA ERA

So far in the social media era for business communications there has been a tunnel vision focus on harnessing the potential of an almost unlimited audience. However, few thoughts have been spared to consider the potential risk factor in opening a dialogue with such a vast number of people. An odd trend is emerging in English football as supporters are having a direct influence on the decision making of senior officials at their clubs.

Bolton Wanderers have announced that, after fan consultation, they have decided to pull out of a sponsorship deal with payday lenders QuickQuid. This follows not long after Everton FC’s supporters assembled a strong enough response to the unloved design of the club’s new crest that club officials apologised for their error and promised a re-design for the 2014-15 season.

It’s true that, unlike in business, passions run high in football and the trends of dissent- that have never been far from any football ground- represent nothing new . No, it’s not surprising football fans are upset, what’s surprising is that their protests are working.

Football fans have found a voice that does more than just come up with witty chants. Social media and other online channels, have allowed for bickering factions of supporters to quickly become mobilised units of thousands of people [24,000 Evertonians have so far signed an e-petition] and in numbers there is influence. It’s a worrying thought for businesses that are just a ‘#’ away from crisis.

Should the general public realise that, actually, their role of consumer is quite important they might just recognize what football fans have; that they, in unity, have power. Businesses must hope that they can maintain a service that avoids every decision they make turning into a referendum.

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