Digital, social media, football: a winning hattrick

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Covid-19 has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world and football has not been left out.

While in some countries fans still can’t go to the stadium, social media gives a shot at providing some sort of fan experience – the “front line” in today’s game.

And some federations on the continent have mastered that art and are transforming their organisations into real brands and attracting audiences from across the globe.

Of course, you have those that are still lagging but Tanzania, Morocco and South Africa are leading the way in building digital audiences and stay close to Egypt and Nigeria who have huge population advantages off the field of play.

In a global world, the Tanzania Football Federation [TFF], the South African Football Federation [SAFA] and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation [FRMF] are engaging their citizens scattered across the globe via platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

With 374k followers on Twitter, 124k on Facebook and 1.3m on Instagram, the TFF is hyperactive.

SAFA also occupies the field with 264k followers on Twitter and 82k on Facebook. Bafana Bafana, on the other hand, enjoys a following of 541k on Twitter and 249k on Facebook.

The FRMF has made significant progress in the last two years and has 469k followers on Twitter, 670k on Facebook and 525k on Instagram.

The FRMF is closely followed by football powerhouse Ghana who have 433k Twitter followers and 199k on Facebook.

Given that Nigeria sits 497k on Twitter and just 74k on Facebook from a population of 212 487 030, while Egypt has 1.1m Twitter followers and 963k on Facebook from its population of 102.3m these are remarkable numbers from the smaller African countries that eat and sleep football.

Tunisia has more followers on Facebook than it does on Twitter with 629k and 28k, respectively.

Digital marketing specialist Moonira Ramathula, who is also the founder of Futballing Girls, believes the use of social media is the future in terms of improving and expanding their business, whether this be for marketing purposes or as a medium for directly communicating with their fans.

“Most of these associations use social media to get their organisations out there and their brands out there. Covid-19 forced them to go digital because without social media presence fans don’t get to know you and what you’re doing,” Ramathula said, adding that she sometimes follows football matches on social media.

Interestingly, the Moroccan national teams now have the most distinctive digital communication in Africa with a spectacular evolution in recent years and a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The FRMF uses Arabic and English, with the decision to abandon French for a worldwide orientation.

Botswana’s Botola1 export Kabelo Seakanyeng notes that the Moroccans “diversify the content and ensure a proximity with the fans”.

“Their communication around the women’s national teams is just as well organised as the men’s teams. You also see the trend filter down to clubs especially the big ones who are constantly competing in Africa,” he says.

The dynamism is credited to FRMF president Fouzi Lekjaa, who has surrounded himself with young, dynamic, and modern profiles at the head of the FRMF’s communication, notably 27-year-old Omar Khyari, who functions as advisor to the federation’s boss, and 31-year-old Amine Mazzen, who oversees the communication of Morocco’s national teams.

The effects were evident in the communication of the FRMF and Lekjaa during the FIFA Council bid, setting him up as a renowned and respected football administrator on the African continent as well as reinforcing the country’s image as far as football is concerned.

Tanzanian social media influencer Priva Abiudi Shayo believes the “TFF demonstrates that Tanzania is a great football nation, driven by its social networks and its clubs such as Simba SC or Yanga SC are taking advantage of that”.

“Data bundles here are very cheap and that has made social media easily accessible to nearly everybody – the rich and poor alike. The rivalry between Simba and Yanga has also moved from the streets to social networks,” explains Shayo.

TFF, he adds, harnesses all audiences, using both KiSwahili, the local language spoken across East Africa, and English.

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By Mthokozisi Dube