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Today, the good, the bad and the great in football are about to start this season’s campaign to win the Premier League – and the superstars competing on the pitch are also battling it out on the digital plain.

Mo Salah Selfie

Even in a team sport each individual will understand the influence and importance of generating an engaged following to boost earning potential.

Social media has provided an opportunity for the wider squad, those usually in the background to the poster boys. It’s opening the doors for fans to find another reason to like a player beyond their footballing, creating an engaged audience that brands seek.

Emmanuel Frimpong is a prime example of someone who leveraged his comic personality to great effect. He only made six first team appearances for Arsenal between 2011-2014 and a further 26 appearances in England’s lower leagues but can boast 711,000 Twitter followers – over 100,000 more than current Liverpool FC captain and England first team regular, Jordan Henderson.

Recent years have seen the gradual shift from 140 characters to Instagram, where highly stylised photography has become the norm, generating many likes – but what about meaningful conversations?

With many athletes taking a similar approach, our Insta streams have become more generic than ever, repeating the same posed fashion-esque shots. Fine if it reflects your trade, and aesthetics do matter – but a bit zzzzz when people are looking for more depth.

However trends are changing, encouraged by audiences as they seek more authenticity. Athletes are following the lead of social influencers in allowing their personalities to shine through.

And how refreshing is the approach of the England National Football Team, for allowing the players to speak more freely without the shackles of standardised PR messaging at the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.

It’s this honesty and show of true personality that is starting to set individuals apart and win over fans, helping them break out from the team; and something that has encouraged the rise of micro-communities.

Run crews – branded urban running groups that embrace culture, lifestyle and community building as much as the sport itself – are a modern global phenomenon that demonstrates influence can grow from humble beginnings and through passion rather than mass coverage.

So what can we learn for effective social media communications?

Be you and let your personality shine through! – You are your USP. That’s what differentiates you from competitors

We’re all human, no one is perfect – People want honesty and authenticity, not perfection

Find common ground – Grow your community through a shared passion, don’t try to be everything to everyone.

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